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This Young Chef is Bringing Back the Ancient Riches of Greek Herbs

by Faye Sakellaridis

Evangelia Koutsovoulou is defying the odds during a time of economic crisis in Greece by finding business opportunity in the rich, aromatic herbs of the Greek islands. Her brand of wild-bred culinary herbs, Daphnis and Chloe, boasts a fragrant selection of flavorful herbs, like sage, mint, thyme, and oregano, that are carefully cultivated in the Ionian and Aegean islands where they grow plentifully, seeped in the oceanic air. Nowhere else, not even Italy, can these distinctly aromatic flavors be found.

via NY Times:

“This is a gift from nature,” says Koutsovoulou of the distinctive taste of her fragrant sage from Epirus (an herb some claim is an elixir for long life), her purple thyme flowers and her balsamic bay leaves — all imbued by the sea, salt and soil of the Greek archipelago, with unique aromas and a high concentration of flavorful essential oils. To source the agrestal herbs, Koutsovoulou maps out the remote Ionian and Aegean islands where they grow best and then calls local bars for tips about fields and farmers to visit, often finding oregano or thyme brush tucked in among wildflowers and olive trees. She works with landowners to encourage noninvasive cultivation of the herbs, maintaining the special qualities they have developed in nature and hand-harvesting a few kilos to send to her Athens office.

Why start a business in a country where lucrative opportunities sound, well, mythic? Koutsovoulou answers by explaining the nuanced Greek term that’s impossible to fully translate, philotimo:

“Greece is a small country,” Koutsovoulou says, explaining the benefits of starting a business in the crisis-stricken nation. “People who I’ve approached want to help me — there is still philotimo among the people.” Philotimo is a famously untranslatable term roughly understood as “love of honor,” a quality of integrity that makes individuals act generously for the good of society. It’s a surviving Platonic ideal that once made Greece the center of civilization and now propels Koutsovoulou, in her studio stacked with boxes destined for international kitchens, to describe herself as “the girl who wanted to make the herbs of her country famous.”

Read the full article here.