Green Pies of Crete (Hortopita and Spanakopita)
By Bill Bradley, R.D.
Updated October 13, 2021
Comfort food in America has been given a bad name because it is usually high in saturated fat and sugar. When we think of something we eat to relax our nerves or when we are having a hard time it is usually meatloaf or macaroni and cheese or ice cream. When I lived in Crete, one of my favorite comfort foods was green pie. The people of Crete go into the mountains to pick a large variety of greens with the Greek name of Horta. By some estimates there are 150 varieties of edible greens on the island.
The greens are prepared by simmering them in extra virgin olive oil for about an hour, usually with a little bit of salt. Some of the greens are quite bitter eaten raw, but once cooked in the oil, the bitterness tends to dissipate. The greens are then drained and are then placed in a simple rolled out dough (which includes more extra virgin olive oil) and folded up into a little individual pie. When I ate green pies in Crete they were usually golden brown rounds about 3 to 4 inches across containing a warm and moist heaping of greens in the center.
A study was done recently on the Green Pies of Crete (now that’s a study I want to participate in). They found that two small green pies had “12 times more quercetin than one glass of red wine (100 ml), and three times more quercetin than a cup of black tea (200 ml).” “Quercetin is a flavanol which may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.” The study went on to say that “wild greens potentially are a very rich source of antioxidant flavonols and flavones in the Greek diet.”
Purslane, another green eaten often in Crete, is also known to be quite high in Omega-3 fatty acids.
So, the difference between a comfort food in Crete and one in America is that the one in Crete will actually promote health and healing.
One of my favorite new bloggers is Elena Paravantes. She is a Greek-American Registered Dietitian and has some really great recipes. I haven’t tried this recipe yet, but let me know if you do before me!
Hortopita: Greek Savory Pie with Greens, Herbs, and Feta Cheese
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