Yiannis’s Herbs and Kalamata Olive Oil

Yiannis Dimitreas in his shop in Kardamyli

The gourmet is always on the search for the best sources of food, wine and anything to do with cooking. I was therefore delighted to find Yiannis Dimitreas’s wonderful shop – which I describe as a kind of Aladdin’s cave in my Beautiful Kardamyli post – within minutes of my arrival, just below my hotel. Full of herbs, herbal teas, olives, olive oil, home-made olive oil soap, creams, lotions and freshly collected sea salt, this is a veritable treasure find for anyone interested in excellent and organic food. Yiannis grows or collects all the ingredients and prepares or makes everything himself and when I was there we often talked about the medicinal quality, as well as culinary uses, of the herbs.  Sometimes I would see him making creams or soap as I passed the shop and go in to take a look.

When my daughter Nicola sent me an email yesterday saying, ‘I had some of Yianni’s herbs last night in my dinner. They smell incredible and it is great that you can see the details of the different herbs – their leaf shapes and textures, etc. I wish I had a lifetime supply!’, I knew I had to find out more about Yiannis’s herbs and so gave him a call.

It’s very hard to find really good dried herbs in UK, I think, but they are used a lot in Greece and Yiannis’s are quite unlike any I’ve ever found before.  He puts six different herbs in his ‘Mixed Herb’ collection: oregano, thyme, throumpi,

Salt drying in the shop

basil, rosemary and mint. The oregano, thyme and throumpi he collects from the Taygetos Mountains which lie behind Kardamyli, where they grow in the wild, and when I was staying there I’d often see him heading off into the mountains after he closed the shop in the evening. The basil, Yiannis told me, is always grown from seeds that originate from plants his grandmother grew; the rosemary is from a bush he planted years ago and like his mint, is never treated with chemicals and is totally organic.

I asked Yiannis about throumpi which is a herb I don’t know. It’s from the oregano family he told me and has powerful medicinal qualities, healing a tired digestion (possibly a very useful piece of information for the over-indulgent gourmet!) and kills off bad bacteria in the intestines. It’s often put in olives and the black Kalamata olives from his own trees are cured with just sea salt, olive oil and throumpi. His green olives, mixed with some black ones, have sea salt, olive oil, lemon and oregano. And sometimes he also puts some garlic and chilli into the black ones.

Yiannis’s olive oil – from his own trees – is a rich, fruity and delicious extra virgin olive oil – and like everything else in his shop, totally organic. The litre I brought home with me is going fast as are the mixed herbs – especially as I shared them with my son and daughter! – so I’m either going to have to go back to Kardamyli soon or ask Yiannis if he can send me some.

Yiannis can be contacted at: iedimit1@otenet.gr

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A lifelong lover of good food and travel; writer and book editor

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