For the contemporary Greeks, the lotus fruit is the Japanese persimmon, which looks much like a large, smooth, hairless peach. I’ve seen it growing in gardens in the province of Lakonia in the Peloponnese, Greece. Personally, I am not fond of this particular lotus fruit, it is dry and leaves your mouth feeling as though it really needs water. It tastes somewhat like vanilla.
Having tasted this fruit it is hard to believe that it was this that so enthralled Odysseus and his crew of adventurers. Of course, it’s reasonable to assume that the ancient Greek hero remained close to his homeland, but it is unlikely, given the number of years it apparently took him to get home after the Trojan war.
It’s much more probable that he travelled to Asia and struck the sacred lotus.
However, if you take a look at the seed pods you may see they resemble those of the opium poppy. In Cambodia, these are valued as a very tasty snack!
The lotus plant is also valued for its medicinal properties, as it contains nuciferine and aporphine, which are morphine-like substances. This indicates that the sleep of Lethe might well be induced if the plant is consumed. No wonder Odysseus too so long to get home.
Herodotus, the Father of History, believed that the lotus eaters were inhabitants of the Libyan coastal area. However, Herodotus isn’t always a trustworthy source. In the ancient world eating the fruit of the lotus was thought to cause forgetfulness. Whether this was before or after Homer wrote the Odyssey is open to question.
Perhaps the lotus eaters never really existed. However, they’ve certainly captured the imaginations of generations. Fans of Rick Riordan novels will doubtless recall the theme of the Lotus Eaters in his’Camp Half-Blood Chronicles.’
If you are interested enough to try the Greek lotus, visit the Peloponnese in autumn. I have seen the fruit on trees in the winter (no one seems to harvest it). However, you will have to ask permission to try the lotus fruit. As it is cultivated in the gardens of homes.