Loukoumia (also known as Turkish delights from Syros) have their roots in Asia Minor and first appeared in Syros in 1832, with the arrival of refugees from Chios. The first producer was Stamatelakis (can find original boxes in the Industrial Museum of Ermoupoli) and as more refugees arrived, production grew steadily from 1922, reaching a peak in 1975. In 2019, loukoumia were included in the national list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. They are gelatinous sweets, hand-made with starch, sugar and water and are generously dusted in icing sugar. Flavors include rosewater, mastic, bergamot, rose-sugar, clementine, almond, pistachio, walnut and coconut. They can also be plain or stuffed. Their incomparable aroma and taste are attributed to the purity of the ingredients (including natural essential oils and coloring from plant products) as well as the island’s water. Often served with Greek coffee, they are the most famous traditional product of Syros. You’ll find many places selling boxes of Loukoumia in gift boxes.
Halvadopita (nougat pie)
Halvadopita (or nougat pie) is another sweet introduced by migrants from Asia Minor and is the second-most popular traditional product of Syros. It is a delicious and gooey nougat made from local honey and a combination of sugar, glucose, vanilla and egg whites, filled with crunchy almonds and sandwiched between confectionery wafers. In Syros the loukoumia producers make halvaodpities too. So you will easily find halvadopites in local shops in Ermoupoli. You might also see the famous kalathatzides at the port, who were traditionally often producers of loukoumia and halvadopita selling sold their goods in baskets (which is where their name comes from) to passengers traveling by boat.
Loukaniko (local sausage)
The sausages of Syros are made with pork and are renowned for their special flavour (often described as aromatic), which can be put down to the addition of local fennel. They can also be spicy (pikantika) or flavoured with garlic (skordoloukanika). You can find them in butcher’s shops and stores selling local products.
Louza is a charcuterie found throughout the Cyclades islands. It is made from pork loin and in Syros is known for its refined, aromatic taste, mildly spicy flavour and tender texture. The meat is cured in sea salt, then marinated in red wine with a mix of black pepper, allspice, cloves and cinnamon, and finally air-dried. It is made without preservatives, which means it has a relatively short shelf life for a cold cut, which is another reason to try it during your holiday. Another traditional product of Syros that you will find in butcher’s shops and stores selling local goods.
San Michali Cheese
San Michali is a cheese from the village of the same name in northern Syros and has been a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product since 1996. It is a hard, yellow cheese made from pasteurized cow’s milk and has been called the parmesan of Greek cheeses because of its unique sweet and spicy flavor and light nutty aroma. San Michali cheese has been given PDO status because it is made under very strict conditions, using milk from selected cows that feed on the herbs in the largely barren Apano Meria area of Syros and the 4 to 8-month maturation period. It is mostly served as a table cheese or grated on pasta.
Sweet graviera cheese
Graviera (a type of gruyere) is made from cow’s milk (with a small amount of ewe’s or goat’s milk) in limited quantities in Syros and is only available at certain times of the year. Produced according to a traditional recipe and matured in optimized conditions for at least three months (sometimes up to eight months), it is renowned for its sweet, buttery flavor and its notes of lightly roasted nuts.
A soft, creamy cheese with a spicy flavor made from 100% cow’s milk. Another PDO product of the Cyclades, the Kopanisti made in Syros has a taste and texture that are attributed to the herbs and plants that the cows graze on and the fermentation process of the cheese. It is an ideal accompaniment to ouzo and tsipouro and can also be used as a spicy sauce in salads.
Mizithra is a soft white cheese made from the whey residue of cow’s milk. Known for its fresh, creamy taste, it can be used in salads or desserts or eaten on its own with honey, nuts and fresh preserves. The most famous mizithra cheese from Syros is Kalathouni Mizithra, which is dried in a special basket and ready to eat.
Another soft cheese from pasteurized sheep’s or goat’s milk and sold in cheese wheels. Its name comes from the stones (petres) used by locals for milking goats and is known for its low fat content and particular taste.
Capers grow wild on the steep cliffs and barren land of the Apano Meria area in the north. The capers of Syros are known for their special flavor and texture, which come from the combination of sunlight, low rainfall and the sweet sea breeze that is characteristic of all Cycladic islands. The capers are preserved in brine and used to add flavor to salads, pickles and sauces. They are also considered to have health benefits, including vitamins and antioxidants. You can find them in many shops selling traditional products in Syros.
Fennel is abundant on Syros and is used in many local specialities, both as leaves and seeds, and in the form of puree or mash. The seeds are crushed and used mainly in sausages, while the leaves are the main ingredient in delicious marathopita (fennel pie).
The Cyclades islands are famous for producing a variety of tomatoes that are especially tasty when sun-dried. In Syros, they are preserved in jars with salt rather than oil. They need to be rinsed before use and are found in various local delicacies, including tomato fritters (tomatokeftedes), made with a mix or aromatic and often served with tzatziki. A glass of ouzo is the finishing touch.
Pastelaries are dried figs with walnuts and an ideal choice for a nutritious snack on the go (a great alternative to a cereal bar). The figs are sliced open and sprinkled with walnuts, sesame seeds and cinnamon and baked in the oven for a short time. They are then pressed and stored between bay leaves, which adds an aromatic flavour and helps preserve them.
The local honey is mainly made from bees that feed on wild thyme and contains no preservatives, giving it a glorious texture and subtle aroma. Highly nutritious, amber in colour and produced in small quantities due to the unique microclimate, it is a highly prized and valued product, most commonly drizzled over sweets and yogurt.
The crushed olives of Syros are another a traditional product preserved in fennel and brine, giving them a unique, slightly bitter taste. They are the ultimate accompaniment to a meze, served with some local tsipouro or ouzo.
Herbs and other products
The islands of the Cyclades are well known for the biodiversity of the herbs that grow naturally in the unique microclimate (arid conditions, intense Aegean light, strong sea breeze). Some producers have built successful businesses growing organic herbs (oregano, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, sage etc) that are renowned for their flavor and aromas. The cultivation, harvesting, drying and packaging are done in a traditional way. Another organic product grown in Syros is the rock samphire.
Where to find local products
- Livadaras, Ermoupoli (loukoumi and halavadopita)
- Sykoutris, Ermoupoli (loukoumi and halavadopita)
- Korres, Ermoupoli (loukoumi and halavadopita)
- Kanakaris, Ermoupoli (loukoumi and halavadopita)
- Denaxas, Ermoupoli (loukoumi and halavadopita)
- Zozefinos, Manna (San Michali and other cheeses)
- Tyrosyra, Vissas (San Michali and other cheeses)
- Prekas, Ermoupoli (many local products from Syros)
- Vlamis Fruit & Vegetables (products like capers available in stores)
- Organic Beez, Finikas (honey)
- Meli Syros, Posidonia (honey)
- Promithion, Finikas (rock samphire)
- Cyclades Organics, Talanta (herbs)
- Arom, Ermoupoli (fruit jams)
- Zaxari kai Alati, Ermoupolis
- Dellagrazia Oil, Megas Gialos (olive oil)
- Syra Beer