No trip to Cyprus is complete without an outing to the Troodos Mountains to pick up some authentic gastronomy from the many different villages and communities – each with its own specialty!
There are so many wonderful products to choose from and I can easily spend the day going from village to village just to find that truly authentic ingredient or food or drink product!
Forget commercial, sugary, heated honey! Mountain honey is raw, unheated/unprocessed and a powerhouse of nutrients! Quite simply, it is the best honey I have tasted so I always stock up on a jar (or five) during my visits to Troodos! The cluster of nine Larnaka Rural Honey Villages produce premium honey as well as various other mountainous villages, including those in the Marathasa Valley.
The communities of Troodos produce a large array of traditional, cured meats made with spices and wine – usually found as part of a Meze meal (tapas style small dishes). Chiromeri (smoked, salted and cured pork meat with dry red wine) even has Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status and is made in the Pitsilias area. Also made in the area is tsamarella (salted, cured goat meat) and two types of traditional sausage – loukaniko (pork) and pastourmas (beef). Both are made with dry red wine, salt, garlic and coriander seeds and pack quite a punch!
Shoushoukos is a sweet made from grape must (crushed juice, seeds, skin and stems) with almond in the centre. It can only be made by hand (mass production methods do not exist to make it!). The appearance of shoushouko is rather unusual; long sticks that look like melted wax candles! It’s a chewy, nutty, sweet delicacy that is made in the wine-producing villages of the Troodos range and you can find it in various villages and at road-side stalls as you wind through the mountain roads.
Fondly known as ‘firewater’ Zivania is Cyprus’ national spirit and is very potent (up to 99% alcohol content!). It is made by distilling a mixture of grape pomace with wines made from the indigenous Xynisteri (white) and Mavro (red) grape varieties. The villages Alona and Pelendri (part of the Pitsilia region wine communities) are the main producers of Zivania. If you are visiting the island in November, both villages celebrate their spirit-making tradition with a festival.
Soumada (orgeat syrup) is a sweet almond cordial that is produced in Limnatis village (Limassol mountainous areas). The village is known for its many almond groves – a particularly stunning site when the trees are in bloom around February. ‘The Festival of the Blossoming Almond Tree’ also takes place at this time to celebrate the almond crop and all its uses, including soumada. Cyprus almonds are also delicious and worth buying raw!
Agros village (in the Pitsilia area of the Limassol mountains) is known for its fragrant roses – considered to be the best on the island, and I always stock up on rose-flavoured beverages (liqueur, aperitif and cordial). If it seems unusual to flavour consumables with rose, it is actually quite common in Cyprus! Rose ice-cream (triandafilo) is a popular, traditional flavour, and rose cordial is enjoyed both as a drink or to flavour the traditional mahalepi corn-starch dessert, which is my personal favourite treat when I visit the island!