'Rich and fertile plains are interposed between the mountains; and these, in ancient times, furnished grain sufficient not only for its numerous cities, but enabled it to export a large quantity to the capital of Attica... If an enemy wished to starve Athens, the first step was the occupation of Euboea, thereby cutting off the great source of its necessary supplies.' Edward Dodwell, 1819
Evia has a long association with food and wine. Homer refers to ‘wine-rich Histiaea’, a town on the northern coast of Evia, whilst the first recorded battle in Greek history was fought over the fertile Lelantine plain, which lies between Halkida and Eretria. Theognis referred to the 'good vinelands of Lelantus'. Indeed, the name Evia (Euboea) means ‘rich in cattle’.
Today, Evia still produces wine, much of it coming from the Lelantine plain, and its fertile plains produce many crops and support livestock. As for Evian cuisine, the usual Greek appetizers such as tzatziki, deep fried courgettes (and other vegetables), wild greens, aubergine dip, spinach and cheese pies are ubiquitous throughout the island. In a traditional taverna, these are often followed by lamb or pork cutlets, souvlaki (skewered meat), fried meatballs, sausages or even kokkoretsi (stuffed sheep’s entrails).
Although it is not distinguished by any separate culinary tradition, Evia is renowned for its fish and its seafood. The Evian gulf is very rich in many Mediterranean fish, and depending upon the season, it is possible to find sardines, anchovies, whiting, hake, sea bass, numerous sea breams (gilt-head, white, red and others), dentex, groupers, mullets (grey and red), sole, bonito, sand-smelt, mackerel and countless others.
However, because the Mediterranean is over-fished, the price of some of the more highly-prized fish (such as the gilt-head sea bream or dentex) can be high, often as much as 60€/kg in fish tavernas. Fresh sardines, on the other hand, can be bought in local markets for less than 5€/kg.
Seafood is also a great local speciality, and it is possible to find delicacies which are not easily found elsewhere in Greece. Locally-caught cephalopods like octopus, calamari (squid) and cuttle-fish are readily found. Fresh chargrilled squid is truly a revelation, if one has previously only tried the deep-fried frozen variety. Of the crustaceans, prawns small and large, langoustines and lobsters are all available in season.
Finally, countless molluscs are available: scallops, cockles, razor clams, mussels, limpets, Warty Venuses, Smooth Venuses, Noah’s Arks and others. Many are eaten raw, or are cooked with cheese and tomatoes in small pans called saganakia. Seafood is traditionally served in ouzeries, since it is usually accompanied by ouzo.