Nuts are a basic ingredient in countless Greek recipes, from Ikaria and from Greece in general. Not too far from our village is a small mountain village called “Karidyes,” or “Walnut Trees.” We have walnut, chestnut and almond trees growing on our property; we pick the feathery blossoms of wild pistachio trees down the road and pickle them to make one of the most amazing Greek mezedes.
Nuts have always been a tremendously important part of the Greek and Ikarian kitchen, in sauces, main courses, and, of course, desserts, one of the many ingredients, up there with honey, petimezi (grape molasses), and dried fruits, that make Greek pastry and dessert traditions healthier than most.
As I report in my book, Ikaria: Lessons on Food, Life and Longevity from the Greek Island Where People Forget to Die, nuts are protein- and fat-based foods. Sweets contain carbohydrates. The protein in nuts counteracts the effects of the carbs, which in turn reduces the burden on our pancreas to produce high amounts of insulin. Nuts basically keep the balance the glucose levels in the blood more stable.
They are also filled with great nutrition. Walnuts provide rare anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant phytonutrients that help reduce the risk of prostate and breast cancer. They contain a high amount of vitamin E, which is heart healthy.
So, enjoy an Ikarian or a Greek nut-based dessert and indulge in a healthy pleasure!