Our forefathers used to gather mountain greens for salad or side plate. Not surprisingly, we now consider their food poor and humble. However, it is proven that they lived proportionally longer and also had better health. Can we assume the same of our modern westernized nutrition?
“A cap for pitcher”
One of the more sought after Greek edible potherbs is Cichorium spinosum, commonly named “stamnagathi”. It was named after its thorns, which we ‘ve used for creating a cap for water crocks. In time, the edible part of Cichorium spinosum ended up being called crock-thorn (stamna–agathi, in Greek).
Wild or cultivated, it is very nutritious
Cichorium spinosum germinates mainly in Crete Island and it is consumed either raw or cooked. Recently, we have started cultivating it so as to meet the increasing demand, throughout the year.
“Stamnagathi” is a nutritious green leafy vegetable with high water content (88.7-93.7%); it is also poor in fat (0.2-0.4g/100g) and calories (23.8-36.3 kcal/100g) (1). Its nutritional value depends on cultivation conditions and surrounding ecosystem; thus is appears with high heterogeneity among different species (2). However, cultivated Cichorium doesn’t have fluctuations in nutritional content due to similar cultivation methods (3).
Nutritional value : a Greek super food
The plant contains free sugars, mainly glucose (0.14-0.69 g/100 g), and sucrose (0.18-0.6 g/100 g) (3). The edible parts of the plant are considered good sources of vitamins alpha-tocopherol, C, K1, and beta-carotene, as well as contain potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, and sodium (3-6).
It is also rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (more than 76% of total fat content), whereas polyunsaturated/saturated fatty acids ratio, and n-6/n-3 fatty acids ratio is higher than 0.45 and lower than 4, respectively (1, 3, 5). Cichorium leaves have plenty of bioactive compounds, such as phenols and glutathione, having intense antioxidant action (1, 4, 5).
It will make you feel refreshed and revived.
As a result of its high antioxidant content, Cichorium is considered to benefit cardiovascular health, blood lipid levels, and immune system health; it may also exert protective effect against certain types of cancer (7, 8). In addition, it has diuretic and mild laxative effect, whereas it was used in ancient years to treat liver and gallbladder issues. However, the latter is not scientifically proven yet.
Article by George Milessis Msc – Licensed nutritionist
- Petropoulos SA, LevizouE, NtatsiG, FernandesÂ, BarrosL, PetrotosK, et al. Salinity effect on nutritional value, chemical composition and bioactive compounds content of Cichorium spinosum L. Food Chem. 2016; 214: 129-136.
- Psaroudaki A, Nikoloudakis N, Scarakis G, Katsiotis A. Genetic structure and population diversity of eleven edible herbs of Eastern Crete. J Biol Res. 2015; 22:7.
- Petropoulos SA, Fernandes Â, Ntatsi G, Levizou E, Barros L, Ferreira ICFR. Nutritional profile and chemical composition of Cichorium spinosum L. Ecotypes. LWT-Food Sci Technol. 2016; 73: 95-101.
- Vardavas CI, Majchrzak D, Wagner KH, Elmadfa I, Kafatos A. The antioxidant and phylloquinone content of wildly grown greens in Crete. Food Chem. 2006; 99: 813-821.
- Zeghichi S, Kallithraka S, Simopoulos AP. Nutritional composition of molokhia (Corchorusolitorius) and stamnagathi (Cichorium spinosum). World Rev Nutr Diet. 2003a; 91: 1-21.
- Zeghichi S, Kallithraka S, Simopoulos AP, Kypriotakis Z. Nutritional composition of selected wild plants in the diet of Crete. World Rev Nutr Diet. 2003b; 91: 22-40.
- Simopoulos AP, Gopalan C (eds): Plants in Human Health and Nutrition Policy. World Rev Nutr Diet. 2003; 91: pp 1-21
- Simopoulos, AP. Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Antioxidants in Edible Wild Plants. Biol Res 2004;37: 263-277