For the modern 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’m not a fan of this specific 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’s difficult to believe that it was this that so enthralled Odysseus and his team of adventurers. Needless to say, it is reasonable to suppose that the ancient Greek hero stayed close to his homeland, but it is unlikely, given the amount of years it apparently took him for home after the Trojan war.
It’s much more probable that he travelled to Asia and encountered the sacred lotus. The sacred lotus, therefore Homer wrote in Book 9 of the Odyssey, caused Odysseus and his followers to forget the purpose of their journey, which is why some commentators have suggested that the lotus eaters partook of the opium poppy.
However, for those who have a look at the seed pods you will see they resemble those of the opium poppy. Each pod holds about 24 seeds. In Cambodia, these are appreciated as a very tasty snack!
The lotus plant is also valued for its medicinal properties, as it contains nuciferine and aporphine, which can be morphine-like substances. This indicates that the sleep of Lethe might well be induced if the plant is ingested. No wonder Odysseus too so long for home.
Herodotus, the Father of History, thought the lotus eaters were inhabitants of the Libyan coastal area. However, Herodotus isn’t always a trusted source. In the ancient world eating the fruit of the lotus was believed to cause forgetfulness.
Perhaps the lotus eaters never actually existed. However, they’ve certainly captured the imaginations of generations. as can be seen in her novel, ‘The Age of Innocence’. Fans of Rick Riordan novels will doubtless recall the theme of the Lotus Eaters in his’Camp Half-Blood Chronicles.’
If you are curious enough to try the Greek lotus, head to the Peloponnese in autumn. I have seen the fruit on trees in winter (no one seems to harvest it). However, you will need to ask permission to try the lotus fruit. As it’s cultivated in the gardens of homes.