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Why Greek salad tastes so good

- by Andy Cornish

Many first time holidaymakers to Greek and the Greek Islands will remark, on tasting their first Greek tomato or melon, that they had no idea that vegetables and fruit could taste this good.

There are plenty of theories on why home grown Greek food tastes so much better. Some say it's not just the lack of pesticide use but also the mineral-rich soils and abundant sunshine of Greece.

Now Greek fruit and vegetables turn out be among the purest and safest to eat in Europe according to food safety experts who give Greek field produce a top rating.

Checks on pesticide residues found in fresh fruit and veg on sale in Greek shops show growers are steering clear of harmful chemicals, according to the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed RASFF.

It is hardly surprising as many visitors to Greece will comment on the taste of fresh vegetables, especially from tourists who search out tavernas where the locals eat.

The humble Greek salad, of course, is to be found everywhere and usually consists of fresh, ripe tomatoes, cucumber, onion, green peppers, black olives and a generous portion of feta cheese sprinkled with olive oil, vinegar and oregano.

The purity of ingredients is certainly a major factor when it comes to taste and Greek crops have now been added to the list of the safest and best grown fruit and vegetables in the European Union with no warning notices issued to Greece by the health watchdog in the first half of 2014.

It compares to 35 notices on excessive use of pesticides in field crops issued to Bulgaria this year followed by Italy (21), the Netherlands and United Kingdom (19) and France (18).

Other countries found to have large residues on pesticides in fruit and vegetables include Turkey, Egypt, India, the Dominican Republic and Nigeria.

Fresh fruits and vegetables make up a major part of the typical Greek diet and most of it is eaten seasonally. Those looking to enjoy fresh food on a Greek holiday will make straight for the local market where fresh farm produce is on sale every day.

The mild, wet winters and sunny summers give Greece an ideal climate for growing vegetables and fruits and they are usually served up in abundance on taverna tables.

Vegetables form a fundamental element in any Greek menu with tomatoes, garlic, onions, spinach, artichokes, fennel, lettuce, zucchini, eggplant and peppers among the favourites.

Fresh herbs and seasonings are used liberally to enhance the flavour and dishes will often be sprinkled with parsley, dill, oregano, mint, or cinnamon with lemon juice and lemon zest added to dressings.

Fruits are eaten either fresh or they are often preserved by drying. Popular fruits in Greece include apricots, grapes, cherries, apples, oranges pears, plums, figs and the ubiquitous lemon.

Created in 1979, RASFF shares information between its 28 European members and issues notice to importers and exporters on food quality. Its round-the-clock service ensures urgent notices on food safety sent, received and responded to collectively and efficiently.

Thanks to RASFF, many food safety risks had been averted before they could have been harmful to European consumers.