This is my recommended top 5 products you should bring back home or gift your friends (which will thank you eternally)!
As I have written in my "Naxos Food Guide post", Naxos is an island that combines everything you need for the perfect holiday: rich history and culture, world-class beaches, and incredibly tasty locally sourced food at reasonable prices. With a substantial amount of restaurants, varying from local taverns to gourmet fine dining, and a long tradition of producing food products and recipes, Naxos should be on every foodie's bucket list.
But if you have already booked Naxos or, even better, you are there right now wondering what to bring back home, this is my Greek foodie list of things I always buy during my visits to the Greek islands and stockpile for the winter:
1. Dried Herbs
Do yourself a favour and get 2, 3, or as many as you can fit packs of dried herbs (they are not heavy). There is no better quality in the world than the Aegean dry herb, and that is not an overstatement. Sun-kissed by the sun and blessed by rich nutrient soils and microclimate, the herbs Greek islands produce are world-class and second to none.
Oregano is ubiquitous on the island (the most popular ingredient in Greek cuisine) and quite cheap so bulk up to fight the winter blues with Greek-loaded fries. But what’s special and I would recommend looking out for are some very fascinating mixed herb blends with other dried flavoursome things (parsley, thyme, peppers, olives just some to mention) which are unbelievably tasty with fries, in salads or marinades. You will find them everywhere, but I recommend getting them from Naxia Natura📌 (or Naxia Gi) in Chalkio, a beautiful traditional village of the Naxian highlands. Get spices, herbs, honey and olive oil soaps to gift your friends, they will be thanking you forever.
Kitron is a zesty fruit resembling an oversized lemon and is cultivated only in Naxos and in only a handful of other places in the Mediterranean. It's rather thick and quite distinctly strong in taste which means you are not meant to squeeze or eat this fruit. It's the tree's leaves that when dried and distilled make a unique green-coloured liquor that is only produced on this island.
How do you serve and drink Kitron liquor? Naxians drink it chilled as a digestive after dinner (something like limoncello) and local mixologists create inspiring cocktails that you can savour at the bars of this island. The locals are very resourceful with the fruit which despite not being used in cooking, is not wasted. They produce some very interesting foodie products like Kitron chutneys, marmalades and infused olive oils that you can find in Delis around the island but for sure at Promponas📌 spectacular shop (just next to the port in Naxos town). The chutney is unique and interesting to try (reminds me of the North African preserved lemons just in some sweeter and mellower tones) and I suggest getting a jar back home to savour with graviera cheese. I also like to dip my mozzarella stick fries in it. You won't find this either in Amazon or in Greek delis abroad.
Kitron liquor and Kitron products make good gifts to buy for friends back home. Promponas and Vallindras are the two most famous families that own distilleries and have sorted their branding. I would certainly suggest visiting Vallindras Distillery📌 just because it is located in the beautiful and traditional village of Chalkio. For those staying at Hora, Promponas distillery is very close to the town.
CHALKIO ITINERARY SUGGESTION: drive uphill to Chalkio (25 min from Hora) for a morning stroll, coffee and Greek pie for breakfast at the cute Dolce Vita📌 cafe to start the day before visiting the distillery next door to buy Kitron liquor, and then roam to the picturesque alleys for some local product shopping. The village is rather small, 1 hour should be enough for your stroll and shopping. If you are up for lunch, head for homemade lunch under a charming vine-covered pergola at Galanis📌 which also makes a legendary galaktoboureko dessert. Don't miss sneaking in glancing at traditional Greek yiayias chopping and cooking like the good old times!
3. Greek Delights
One good thing the Ottoman Empire left on their way out of Greece, was the Turkish delight. Greeks now make their own variant, called loukoumi (from the Turkish "lokum") and the Cycladic islands are famous for mastering it (especially Syros). They are extremely sweet, fragrant and buttery and Greeks consume them along with their rather strong coffee brew, making it the perfect relief from the coffee’s bitterness. It’s vastly popular among older generations but youngsters love it for bringing childhood memories of biscotto-loukoumo (biscuit with loukoumi treat served by Greek yiayias).
You will find them in artisanal shops around the island but I particularly liked the ones sold by Promponas📌 Naxos downtown, just next to the port area. Grab one of those packets with Kitron flavour, unique from the island. I also liked the old-school tinned package that you can reuse for a Greek-style biscuit tin.
4. Capers and Caper Leaves
The best capers in Greece come from the Cyclades. This is the motto I've been listening as a young kid growing up in Greece and what my taste buds almost always appreciate. Santorini is famous for its capers and caper leaves, but Naxian capers are worth trying and buying. You can find plenty in big supermarkets in Hora but I would also suggest visiting Tzimblakis 📌Deli, one of the oldest Delis in town that maintains its authenticity and its old rustic looks of the 60s and 70s.
Check some recipes with capers here.
5. Thyme Honey
Due to its rich flora and high fluctuations in altitude, Naxos is ideal for the production of honey so you better save some space in your bags and don't leave the island without thyme honey. Not only thyme honey is really special and rare, ranked among the best honey varieties worldwide, but also buying local means you support the local economy and score a better quality-to-price ratio than buying imported back from your country. Thyme bushes bloom from May to early summer and they thrive mainly in the Greek islands. Honey is usually collected in August, so if you visit in late August or September, there is a good chance you will get a cut from the fresh harvest. Where to buy honey in Naxos? I would recommend Tzimblakis📌 in Naxos Hora or Naxia Natura📌 at Chalki (or Chalkio) which promotes local producers from the remote Naxian highlands.
Check my recipes with Greek honey here.