Eating special sardines on Lesbos Island
The island of Lesbos is known to be the home of poets, from the famous ancient poet Sappho to a Nobel prize winner for poetry, Odysseas Elytis. All of them in between have praised its natural environment, its light, its shape and its culinary history. It is true.
Besides the crystal-clear waters to dive into and amazing panoramic views of the sea and vast olive groves, the island boasts a culinary tradition with local produce that is waiting to be discovered yet. Among many local treats like olive oil and the Greek aperitif “ouzo”, the sardines stand out gastronomically.
In no other place in Greece do sardines get such special attention and importance at cooking, but here. If you find yourself on the island in summertime, you will be tempted to try them served in different ways. But why are they so special here?
Packed like sardines, not so as to speak!
Packed like sardines. Who hasn’t recited it at least once? But why would they pack them?
By the end of this article you also may want them packed or not?
I would like to introduce you to a very special kind of sardines, the queen of all, that I have come to appreciate and definitely the most tasty.
Tucked away in the gulf of Kalloni situated at the south part of the island, where the locals call it “papalìna”. As it is about to become a POP product and shot to fame, let’s see why one should be interested in them and how the locals consume them.
Where and when to eat sardines
Situated in the northeast Aegean Sea, the “other Aegean” lesser known to mass tourism, the island of Lesvos is blessed with two gulfs, one of which the famous Kalloni.
With rivers pouring into the sea and its warm water, it provides a rich environment for the marine life it hosts. Therefore, making the fish tastier. Especially the sardines that make it their home. The ones fished there, “papalìna” as the locals call them, are shorter and smaller than those of the open sea, but a whole lot tastier!
Too bad you can taste them mostly in July and August, that is their peak time.
Nutritional value of the sardine
Sardines have an excellent nutritional value as you may know, high in omega 3, iron and calcium while being low in mercury (because the sardines are fish that don’t live on the seabed, but swim near the surface).
Said that, and with the abundance of those at their peak time, it’s no wonder you can find them on every table on the island.
It may come as a surprise seeing them everywhere until you get fed up, but there is a reason they are called the Greek sushi!
How to eat a sardine
The most original way to taste “papalìna” is “pasti”, which means under salt. Once fished and as it is without gutting, they are put under salt, tight packed for a few hours.
Then they are cleaned, gutted and served for immediate consumption, usually with the company of the local aperitif, ouzo. Simple things.
Its sweet taste and buttery texture are all it takes for a mouth-watering hors d’oeuvre! Picture yourself enjoying it on a seaside tavern, after taking a dip in the sea. After all, taverns on the seaside are the norm on the island of Lesvos.
On the other hand, if you are not a fan of crude you can always enjoy them grilled with olive oil on top, again simple since, no flavour enhancing is required.
Sardines are a major culinary local produce and as expected, there is a traditional annual feast in their name at Kalloni village in August. Super fresh sardines are grilled and offered along with local folklore. Of course, always accompanied by a glass of ouzo!
Take the sardines packed at home
You liked them that much yet? Would you like to take some home? Sure, you can!
You can always pick up a tin full of packed sardines under salt from the local company. How are these offered? Packed one on another, here you have the famous “packed like sardines”!
So, every time you need to feel again as if you were by the sea, having just taken a refreshing dip in pristine waters, just unpack some and it is summer aperitif time again!
My name is Taxia and I am Greek. I like to share the beauties and traditions of my country to make you discover “the other Greece”.