Some of the island’s delicious products can be found in supermarkets and Greek specialty shops around the world. Others are made purely for local consumption and can be found only on the island.
Food and drink products made on Thassos are produced with traditional methods. They taste great and are excellent for your health.
Be sure to treat yourself to as many of them as you can, and don’t forget to leave room in your suitcase for a brilliant selection of locally made products. They make for wonderful return gifts!
Olives & Olive Oil
Olive trees are abundant on Thassos and are a big part of the island’s way of life. The production of olive oil has provided an income for many generations of Thassians.
On Thassos, the olive tree is considered a blessed tree and none of it is allowed to be wasted. Its fruit, the olive, is edible and used for producing olive oil. The leaves are used as food for animals and livestock. The wood is used to keep homes warm during the Winter, and, in the hands of wood sculptors, is made into beautiful works of art.
Thassos produces what locals call a non “twisted” olive, a distinct wrinkled black olive that goes by the name of the “Thassian Throuba Olive.” Throuba olives are medium-sized and very rich in quality, used to produce extra virgin olive oil with very low acidity. Lower acidity levels in the olive oil result in better quality, color, aroma, and taste, giving Thassos olive oil its superior characteristics.
Thassos olive oil contains large amounts of antioxidants, and a recent study showed that the juices in the Throuba olive contain properties that protect against heart attacks and other heart related diseases.
You can buy Thassian olive oil directly from local producers as well as from shops on the island. Thassian olive oil and olives come in many different varieties and packaging. This includes bottles of olive oil that are enriched with local herbs which you can see resting at the bottom of the bottle. These herbs give it a special aroma and enhance the oil’s taste to make a great ingredient for salads and other food.
You can try and buy Thassian olives and olive oil just about everywhere on the island. They are also widely exported, so they can be found in many places around the world.
Honey making is a developed industry on the island of Thassos. The honey-bearing liquid of the pine tree and the flowers of the arbutus, myrtle, wicker, and chestnut trees are a rich source of food for bees, who collect the nectar and other natural juices and liquids from the flowers. They take this to their hives, enriching and storing it in their honeycombs.
Honey is a completely natural product and is made locally in the most pure way. You can buy it from independent producers from all around the island who sell various honey and beeswax products, as well as pollen and traditional Thassian sweets that are made solely with local Thassian honey.
In addition to the island’s delicious honey, you can also try honeycomb, royal jelly, and propolis (a mixture that bees collect from tree buds and sap flows, used as a sealant for unwanted open spaces in the hive).
Thassian honey is easy to come by on the island. Various shops, road-side stands, and the honey factory sell it.
The sweets of Thassos have a special flavour originating from their secret ingredient, Thassian honey. The most well-known among these is the walnut sweet, made of walnuts that are picked early in the spring to make a very tasty and nutritious sweet. Other sweets are made from fig, pumpkin, orange, rose, and quince.
Other traditional sweets include “halvas”, usually made in the village of Kallirachi, as well as the “saragli”, a traditional homemade pastry for pies, mixed with honey and walnuts, and baked in the oven.
You’ll have many opportunities to try and buy fresh, locally produced sweets. Shops around the island sell it, as well as road-side stands during the Summer.
The golden era of Thassian wine was mainly during the Hellenistic and Classical times, when it played a major role in the development of the island’s economy. After wine-producing was replaced by olive-growing as the island’s main industry, the production of wine steadily declined.
Today there is no mass production and there are only a few limited types of Thassian wine for sale. You may try, however, exceptional quality wine from private growers and producers around the island.
The mountain village of Kazaviti is renowned for its wine.
The locals love producing a strong and tasty alcoholic beverage called “tsipouro”. After the island’s grape harvest at the end of October and the beginning of November, big pots are put to work to produce this traditionally prized drink. Certain flavourings like anise and fruit are added to give a unique mild and fruity flavour. It’s the drink of choice for many of the locals because it’s made of all-natural ingredients and contains no chemicals, making hangovers and other bad side effects virtually non-existent.
Tsipouro resembles ouzo, a traditional drink of Greece familiar to most people. The basic difference between the two is that tsipouro is an all-natural product of distilled grapes, while ouzo is distilled alcohol containing chemicals. The flavour of tsipouro is normally milder and more aromatic than ouzo, but both can be drunk with good company, as long as it’s in good moderation, too!
The drink goes very nicely with a dish of salty appetisers and a variety of salted or smoked seafood. Most tavernas and restaurants serve their very own tsipouro, if requested!
The crystal-clear sea surrounding Thassos is blessed with an abundance of fish and other species that are freshly caught and offered at the island’s tavernas and marketplaces.
Whether it is caught or bought and prepared by you, or ordered at one of the island’s many excellent fish tavernas, you will enjoy some of the most tasty and fresh fish of your life.
From the smaller sardines, anchovies, and shrimp to the larger bass, sea bream, and mullet, there’s a huge variety from which to choose that will certainly keep your taste buds excited during your holiday.
The island’s southern rocky coast provides shelter and hiding places to sea-life, attracting many species like octopus, squid, sea urchins, and oysters.
Typically, local tavernas offer these mouth-watering delicacies grilled or fried with a touch of olive oil, vinegar or lemon. Additional ingredients, such as sauces, aren’t normally added because they’re simply unnecessary when the seafood is naturally so tasty.
Be sure to accompany your delicious seafood dish or appetiser with an intoxicating glass of Tsipouro or Ouzo for a magical experience that will make you feel like you’re in heaven!
Farming has been a part of Thassian life since ancient times. The island’s lush vegetation and pristine environment provides a healthy habitat for herds of goat and lamb.
You can try local goat and lamb specialities in many of the tavernas on the island, especially in the mountain villages of Theologos, Kazaviti, Panagia, and Maries.
Thassian feta cheese is made from local goat milk, as are other traditional cheeses & creams produced on Thassos.
The island’s dairy industry is relatively small nowadays and doesn’t produce as much as it used to, but seek it out and you may be lucky enough to try fresh, local cheese.
MOUNTAIN TEA AND HERBS
The healing properties of plants and herbs found on Thassos have been well known and documented for thousands of years. While living on Thassos, the great physician Hippocrates (460-370 BC), considered today as the father of western medicine in ancient Greece, reported extensively on the therapeutic properties of the island’s plants and herbs, and used them to treat his patients.
Bay leaves, Rosemary, Camomile, and Linden can be found in the wild and are used to make soothing remedies for the common cold. Other plants found on the island are Balm, St. John’s Wort, Sage, and other Balsamic plants. These, blended with olive oil, are said to have great skin-healing properties. Additionally, there are 12 species of medicinal plants on Thassos which do not exist anywhere else in Greece.
Thassos produces a bounty of herbs like Oregano, Peppermint, and Mountain tea growing high up in the mountains. You can easily find Thassian herbs for sell at shops around the island.
Since ancient times, the Thassians constructed most of their buildings with marble from the island. Thassian marble was prized throughout the ancient Greek and Roman worlds for building projects because of its pure, snow-white colour. As a matter of fact, marble whiter than that of Thassos has never been discovered to this day.
It’s believed that the island’s first marble extraction took place around 18000 BC between the villages of Limenaria and Maries, making it one of the oldest mining sites in Europe.
Later around 7 BC, settlers came from the island of Paros to exploit the vast gold deposits discovered on Thassos. The settlers extracted large amounts of white Thassian marble for construction as well as for the arts, subsequently creating the first school of sculpture.
Marble was exported from Thassos for the first time during the 6th century BC. It was shipped from the ancient marble quarries of Alyki to the nearby island of Samothraki and to various other islands, to the coast of Asia Minor, to Athens, and southern Greece. Later in the 3rd century AD, it was shipped to ancient Rome and, after that, to the Byzantine Empire. Today it’s a world-class product and demand for it comes from just about everywhere.
Thassian marble is famous for its pure white color and soft glow. It is particularly popular in hotter climates such as the Middle East because of its natural insulating properties and its ability to reflect light, and thus heat, from the Sun.
Its reflective properties are so unique that it inspired the visual effects team of The Twilight Saga. Very fine Thassos marble dust was added to the vampires’ face paint to create the incredible sparkling effect when sunlight touched their skin.
There are numerous marble quarries operating on the island today, mostly in the region of the island’s capital Limenas, where large blocks of marble are extracted. The marble blocks are then sent to factories equipped with heavy machinery for delicate and precise cutting. There the marble is processed and made for use in homes, buildings, and offices all around the world.