For the contemporary Greeks, the lotus fruit is the Japanese persimmon, which looks much like a large, smooth, hairless peach. I have seen it growing in gardens in the state of Lakonia in the Peloponnese, Greece. Personally, I am not fond of this specific lotus fruit, it is dry and leaves your mouth feeling like it actually needs water. It tastes somewhat like vanilla.
Having tasted this fruit it’s difficult to believe that it was this that so enthralled Odysseus and his team of adventurers. Needless to say, it’s reasonable to assume that the ancient Greek hero remained close to his homeland, but it’s unlikely, given the amount of years it took him for home after the Trojan war.
It’s much more probable that he travelled to Asia and struck the sacred lotus.
However, for those who take a look at the seed pods you may see they resemble those of the opium poppy. In Cambodia, these are appreciated as a very tasty snack!
The lotus plant is also valued for its medicinal properties, as it comprises nuciferine and aporphine, which can be morphine-like substances. This indicates that the sleep of Lethe might well be triggered if the plant is consumed. No wonder Odysseus too so long for home.
Herodotus, the Father of History, believed the lotus eaters were people of the Libyan coastal location. However, Herodotus isn’t always a trusted source. From the ancient world eating the fruit of the lotus was thought to cause forgetfulness.
Maybe the lotus eaters never actually existed. However, they’ve certainly captured the imaginations of generations. Fans of Rick Riordan books will doubtless recall the subject of the Lotus Eaters in his’Camp Half-Blood Chronicles.’
If you’re interested enough to try the Greek lotus, visit the Peloponnese in fall. I’ve seen the fruit on trees in the winter (no one appears to harvest it). However, you’ll need to ask permission to try out the lotus fruit. As it’s cultivated in the gardens of homes.