Glyko – Cyprus Sweets
If you are invited into a Cypriot home, your hostess may well offer you a tray with you’re a cup of thick Cyprus coffee and its accompanying glass of water and a small glass dish of ‘glyko’ and a small gateau fork. (Cyprus Spoon Sweet)
‘Glyko’ (‘glyka’ in plural) is locally picked seasonal fruit that has been preserved in sweet sugar syrup, and for centuries it has been the treat offered to guests by Cypriot housewives - a similar friendly custom can be found in parts of the Middle East. It is believed that the custom started in medieval times when sugar canes grew abundantly in large plantations along the south coast of the island in such areas as Episkopi and Kolossi. There has always been a surplus of delicious fruit, and in the days before refrigeration, sugar became well known for its preserving qualities and gradually the tradition of preserving seasonal fruits evolved so that the fruits could be enjoyed during the winter months.
The variety of fruit used for making glyka is surprisingly wide, and includes apricots, figs and cherries, as well as orange and lemon peel and chunks of watermelon skin which all taste surprisingly good! Even more unusual are the tiny white aubergines, but the most prized is ‘karidhi’- ‘green’ walnuts.
Housewives prepare glyka through the passing seasons and the first glyko to be made in mid-May is the karidhi. The walnuts must be picked from the tree when they are green and soft, and their inner shells unformed. Amusingly, you can often tell who has been making this type of glyko, by their badly stained hands - gloves are absolutely essential when peeling the walnuts!
If you are driving up to the Troodos on the main road from Pano Polemidhia you will pass a workshop on the left-hand side on the outskirts of Dhoros, and the signboard outside proclaims ‘Katerina’s Home – made Sweet shop’, do take some time to pop in and learn all about glyka and taste some for yourself over a coffee whilst you watch Katerina and her staff hard at work in the kitchen with huge pots of bubbling glyka!
Katerina learnt the art of making glyka (Cyprus Sweets) when she was a small girl from her grandmother. She was impressed to see little roadside stalls in her village selling Glyka. She decided to try making her own glyko from the quince in their garden. She gave the finished jars away to friends and her local grocer who was so impressed he immediately placed an order!
It is now ten years since she opened her own business and today her products can be found in most supermarkets and grocery shops. She produces a wide range of glyko as well as Cyprus marmalades and Cyprus jams.
Glyka has been made on the island since ancient times to preserve seasonal fruits so that they can be enjoyed later in the year – certainly useful in the days before freezers! When visitors come to a home, the housewife still traditionally serves a plate with a piece of glyko with a cup of Cyprus coffee. The different fruits and vegetables are prepared in thick syrup – some with the addition of local herbs.
Katerina’s Sweets is situated on the left-hand side of the main road at Dhoros village. Open 09.00-5.00 p.m. daily, it is a great place to enjoy a coffee break and as well as a shop and taste. Why not visit the Katerina sweets website here.
You can read about more Cypriot food and drink to try on your Cyprus holiday here.
Another top location for making traditional Glyko is the village of Agros