11 Delicious Greek Fruits You Must Try
Greek fruits may not be the first thing to come to mind when thinking of the irresistible Greek food. But they truly are the stars of the summer: succulent, crunchy, sweet, and full of nutrients, they are great for helping you keep hydrated and sustained in the relentless Greek summer’s heat.
During the winter, other local fruit take over as kings of the healthy dessert selection, just as sweet and just as juicy to keep away the cold and bolster you against the elements.
Depending on where you find yourself in Greece, there will be some fruits that stand out from the others, as they will be locally harvested and you’ll be eating them virtually right off the tree or the vine. But wherever you find them in Greece, they will be an experience your palate will not forget!
Here are the tastiest, most irresistible summer fruits that will have you hooked from the first bite.
In Greece, summer has officially begun when you have cracked into the year’s first watermelon. They should be huge, the green peel taught like a drum, and when you cut into one with your knife, you should hear the characteristic crack of the peel breaking to let you into the vibrant red or pink flesh inside.
The taste is sweet and refreshing, almost like nature’s sorbet. It is served chilled, preferably during at noon when the heat is almost unbearable. Often you will find it served as a free dessert in tavernas.
Locals will tell you that there’s an art to picking the right watermelon. To ensure it is at its tastiest, it needs to sound like a drum when you tap it, and around the stump where it came off the vine, the green should be fading into a white yellowish ring. Otherwise, you might end up with a “rushed” watermelon, one that wasn’t given enough time on the vine to ripen and become sweet and fragrant.
2. Melon (Cantaloupe)
Often served as a fruit salad together with watermelon, melons are the second most iconic summer fruit in Greece. These are considerably smaller in size than watermelons and bright yellow. Inside, the flesh is a soft pastel yellow.
The taste is sweet and the texture creamy. It is served chilled and the seeds are often dried and salted and eaten as a type of dried nut or beer nut called pasatempo.
To pick the right melon, you need to smell and feel it. If it gives a fresh fragrance, and feels taut to the touch, then you have the right one. If it smells a little too ripe, or feels a little too soft, then you may want to skip that one.
3. Melon of Argos
The Argos melon is distinct from standard melons in both shape, size, color, and taste. It is shaped like a rugby ball and instead of a smooth surface, it’s striated, a bit like a walnut shell. It’s bigger than the cantaloupe and has a much darker yellow color (and some varieties are deep green) and the flesh inside is orange.
Argos melons are extremely tasty and only come from the area of Argos in the Peloponnese. They are available everywhere in Greece, but only in small quantities, so if you come across any, don’t pass them up!
4. Royal Figs (Vassilika)
That’s right, we’re talking about figs that are so sweet and succulent their variety is actually called Royal (Vassilika in Greek). Unlike the standard fig, which is also very tasty, these are bigger, with a thinner skin that is a rich, dark purple or outright black.
Royal figs become ripe toward the end of summer, so if you come across them earlier, they may not have been allowed to properly ripen and may be less sweet. But if you do happen to have a real royal fig, you will never forget the rich, sweet yet slightly tangy, perfectly balanced taste, nor the especially pleasing texture of their flesh.
Peel the royal fig with your hands and eat it straight off the peel – that’s the most enjoyable way!
5. Peaches and Nectarines
Greek peaches and nectarines have a special sweetness to them that you won’t find anywhere else. They look very similar – the difference being that peaches have a fuzzy skin while nectarines have a shiny, taut skin and are slightly smaller in size.
Peaches also tend to be slightly juicier as a rule. Both are tangy and sweet, and make for an excellent and invigorating snack during the day. The fragrance of Greek peaches and nectarines is unique and exquisite. So much so it might even make you stop if you walk by a stall selling them!
In the old days, there was a variety of giant peach in Greece called yiarmas, which was almost four times the size of a large peach today. It was the most succulent and fragrant peach you could find. This type of peach is now very rare, but you may be able to find it grown in tiny orchards in some remote villages during the summer. If you do, you simply have to jump at the opportunity – you won’t be disappointed!
6. Krystali Pears
These very special pears are harvested during July. They are also called butter pears (voutyrato), which should give you an idea of how silky smooth the flesh is. But that’s not all. These pears are famous for their elegant, irresistible aroma.
They are usually medium sized, as far as pears go, and have a characteristic pink tint somewhere on their curves, “where the sun kissed them the most”, as the locals say. They taste a special kind of sweet you simply need to experience.
7. Greek Oranges
Greek oranges come in a few varieties. You want to look out for those from Chios and Arta, as they are insanely sweet and very juicy. Freshly squeezed orange juice is common in Greece, although there are commercialized fresh orange juice brands that boast these varieties as well.
Whenever you can, go for the freshly squeezed orange juice and not the one out of the box.
All varieties of Greek orange come in two main types: for juicing and for eating. The ones for juicing are, as you might expect, packed full of juice with relatively thin segments and are small. The ones for eating are larger and have easily separated segments where the juice waits to burst in your mouth.
8. Rodochori Cherries
This cherry is specifically called Tragana, which in Greek means crunchy. That’s because these bright, vibrantly colored cherries have a very pleasant bursting sensation when you bite into them – their taut skin makes it feel like a cherry-flavored explosion in your mouth. They are also rather large and have a rich flesh.
You will know them by their bright red color and their size. They are hand-picked in Kozani, where the titular village of Rodochori is, which is where they originate from. The special taste and appeal that has made them famous is down to the soil and climate of the area.
9. Firiki Apples
These may be the smallest apples you will ever see. That’s why they’re often sold in bunches in a net! Firiki apples are slightly oblong and narrow, and can fit in your hand. They are very fragrant and have a sweet taste that’s very distinct, which makes them particularly good in pies and desserts.
They are greenish-red in color, so they may appear unripe, but they aren’t! Normally, the firiki apple is green, but where they are more exposed to the sun, they get reddish tints, so you will sometimes see them colored almost half and half!
10. Chios Mandarins
Chios mandarins are considered the best in the world, thanks to their fragrance, size, and taste. Like much of the produce that comes from Chios island, these mandarins can’t be cultivated anywhere else and yield fruit that is so fragrant and exquisite. Thankfully, it grows in abundance, producing rich crops, which means you can enjoy Chios mandarins anywhere in Greece.
They are a very characteristic golden yellow color, and their peel is almost bumpy and rough to the touch. You can peel them extremely easily. The segments have slightly coarse membrane that hold a lot of juice within.
To give you an idea of the fragrance of these mandarins, when the orchards in Chios are in full bloom, the aroma is so intensely overwhelming that the entire island was named myrovolos, which means fragrant one.
11. Zagora Apples
They honestly look like they were designed by Walt Disney! They are the perfectly shaped, deep red apple you might imagine Snow White to bite into. This apple comes from the mountain of Pilion and the famous Zagora village, though, over the past century, zagorin became an umbrella term for various types of apple cultivated in that area.
The Zagora apple (the elongated variety that is the most traditional), is very sweet, quite large in size, and has a very thick, almost waxy, deep red peel. They are the quintessential apple, with an amazing fragrance that comes from the soil and climate of Zagora. You won’t be disappointed when you bite into one.
There are many more fruits to encounter and taste in Greece, from quinces and cumquats to kiwis and grapes, all of which boast an amazing taste and unique fragrance. In short, one could validly claim that “if it comes from Greece, it’ll be fragrant and sweet”.
So, if you ever find yourself in Greece, where the fruit has been allowed to ripen for a little longer on the vine or the branch, make it a point of tasting as many as you can. Venture well beyond this list, which serves only as a gateway to a journey of healthy sweetness!