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GREEK RED KROKOS KOZANIS SAFFRON

Saffron, the GOLD OF GREEK EARTH as it is called, was among the most popular and valuable spices of ancient civilizations, for its flavor, color, pharmaceutical and aphrodisiac properties.

Cleopatra used it in her cosmetics, ancient Phoenicians in their offers to Goddess Astarte, Homer mentioned it in his writings, while we still find it in The Old Testament.

The residents of the area plant saffron every summer and when Autumn arrives remove by hand the precious spots of the beautiful flower and they carefully drain them so that they make the deep red delicate yarns. Nearly fifty thousand spots are needed in order to produce 100 gr of red saffron. The Greek saffron belongs to the highest quality of saffron in the world.

The residents of the area plant saffron every summer and when Autumn arrives remove by hand the precious spots of the beautiful flower and they carefully drain them so that they make the deep red delicate yarns. Nearly fifty thousand spots are needed in order to produce 100 gr of red saffron. The Greek saffron belongs to the highest quality of saffron in the world.

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HISTORY OF KROKOS KOZANIS SAFFRON

HISTORY OF KROKOS KOZANIS SAFFRON The word "krokos" (saffron) in its original or in derivative forms when referring to the plant, the bloom, the essence or the herb/drug, is well known since the earliest texts of the world.

As an essence and bloom it is found intact in the Book of Proverbs as well as in the Song of Solomon 3 in the Old Testament. The word in its original form is also found in texts of Homer, Sophocles, Theophrastos, Aristophanes and Strabo.

Its derivatives krokinos, krokobaptos, krokoessa, krokochros and krokotos, in the sense of colouration and dyed fabric (chiton), can also be found in texts of Aeschylus, Theophrastus, Pindar, Aristophanes and Nikita Eygeneiako. In addition, the verb "krokizo" is used by Plutarch and Dioskoridis.

Homer, in his Hymn to Demeter 178 speaks of “krokos bloom”, Theophrastus says that from the flowers of the plant they got the saffron essence, while Strabo said that near Corycian Cave grew saffron of excellent quality. Finally in Hippocrates, Asclepius, Dioskorides, Galen, and other physicians of antiquity, the word is used to refer to a medicinal or therapeutic herb.

Apart from the aforementioned meanings, the same word has been used by some of our classical poets, such as Homer, Sophocles etc., who have been later imitated by some of our more recent ones, for the description or simile of an object, more frequently so for the sunrise itself.

It was also known to other ancient civilisations as well, such as the Egyptians, the Hebrews and the Romans (Virgil, Pliny and others). However, it retained its undisputed Greekness since it derives from the Greek word “kroki” (thread that is woven in warp threads with the shuttle).

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Mythology

The myth of Krokus

While Hermes was practicing in discus throwing, he fatally wounded his mortal friend Krokus. What a shame! How could he, a God, kill a man! Hermes was deeply saddened. So, he decided to grant Krokus with immortality by transforming his soulless body to a beautiful purple flower and his blood into three red stigmas at the heart of the flower (saffron crocus). Since then, every autumn, the flowers of crocus cover the land of Kozani, in Western Macedonia, with a purple carpet and fill the air with their fine aroma.

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References

Homer, the ancient poet, at some point in the Iliad sang the sunrise somewhat like that: "The Sunrise drew her crocus-like scarf over the sea to bring light on Gods and men alike."

"That is what Zeus (son of Saturn) said and at once grabbed his wife (Hera) in his arms; just for them, the divine land grew freshly-bloomed grass, cool clover and crocuses and hyacinths, thick and soft that covered them. There, they lied down and they were covered with a cloud soft, gold; and bright drops were pourring down on them…".

The above story took place on the Spring marriage of Zeus and Hera (heaven and earth), that is when the earth is pollinated by rain.

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ORIGIN

Saffron as a plant, dye, medicinal herb or flavouring, was known in both ancient Greece and other ancient peoples. But the opinions of all those who have involved in any way with saffron, differ.

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Some argue that saffron is native to the East where it was first cultivated. From there it was brought to Europe by the Crusaders in the 13th century A.D. Others have claimed that it originates in Greece and that it was first cultivated during the Middle Minoan era. This view is reinforced by a painting of that era (1600 B.C.) named “Krokosyllektis (saffron picker)” that was found in the palaces of Knossos, showing a young girl or boy, to some a monkey, picking saffron flowers and putting them in a hamper.

It is also claimed that the Greeks engaged in cultivation of saffron during the Macedonian and Byzantine times. It was spread to the East through the expeditions of Alexander the Great.

What we can be most certain about the history of this plant is that the Arabs after systematically cultivating and using it not only as spice but mostly as a medicinal substance, brought it to Spain in 960 A.D. and from there it spread both directly and indirectly to other countries of Europe.

However, the current cultivation of saffron in Greece (in Kozani area) was imported by Austria during the 17th century. More specifically, it was brought by merchants from Kozani, who at that time maintained close trade relations with Austria.




PROPERTIES

The colouring, scenting, flavouring and medicinal properties of saffron are due to two basic (acting) components: picrocrocin and crocin, especially in the unsweetened parts of them i.e. in the safranal of the first and the crocetin of the latter. Other ingredients of saffron are lycopene, zeaxanthin, α, β and γ-carotenes, vitamin B and B2, carbohydrates and essential oil.

From picrocrocin via enzymatic hydrolysis we get the unsweetend part which in turn is converted to saffranol, the main component of essential oil, that gives saffron its characteristic scent.

From crocin with acid we get the unsweetened part, crocetin, which is the main colouring part of the product. In the market, the percentage of the essential oil and the colouring strength of saffron (which should be as high as possible) basically defines its quality.

Saffron is used in various ways. It is used in pharmacy, confectionery, cooking, cheese-making, distillery, even in painting. Byzantine artists used it considerably.

Moisture and Volatile Matter max 12
Picrocrocin (category 1) min 70
Safranal 20 < x < 50
Colouring strenght (category 1) min 190

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In popular medicine it is used as a emmenagogue, antispasmodic and stimulant. Many experts argue that in small doses it relieves kidney pains, stimulates the appetite and it facilitates digestion. In addition it limits convulsions, hysterics, nervous colics and whooping cough. Externally it is used to cure pimples, inflamations and breast diseases.

From ancient times, saffron was considered to have aphrodisiac properties. Many authors, Greek mythology, even Old Testament itself, associate saffron with love-making and fertility.

Nowadays, it is still used extensively as a spice in various foods in every economically developed country, especially in Europe.

In India, it is used widely as an icense in religious ceremonies, as well as in painting the mantles of the priests, a custom that ancient Egyptians and Romans also had.

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CULTIVATION

CULTIVATED AREA - LAND - ANNUAL PRODUCTION

The only saffron-cultivated area in Greece is the region of Kozani, in some villages of which (Krokos, Karyditsa, Agia Paraskevi, Ano Komi, Kato Komi, Pefkopigi, Petrana etc.) there has been systematic cultivation for many years. After many fluctuations in cultivation land areas and the threat of its complete dissapearance during the early postwar years (1941-1950), it now covers roughly about 3,000 acres, 1,000 of which is land used for organic cultivation, distributed thoughtout the land areas of Kozani prefecture. In recent years, the annual production was around 1,200 to 2,000kg of red saffron.

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CULTIVATING PROCESS OF THE PLANT

The following cultivating process, as it is true for any product, varies from country to country depending on the climate and soil conditions, the long tradition, experience, expertise and ability of each country’s producers to adapt to new developments.

Harvesting The Flowers And Splitting The Stigmas And Stamens From The Petals
The flowers that start to grow in mid-October are picked by groups, usually consisting of women, put in their aprons or baskets and taken to their houses in hampers. This laborious work, which requires a degree of certain skills, is taking place from sunrise until sunset and lasts 20 to 25 days.

Drying And Sorting Of Saffron
The drying of the stigmas is the single most important and delicate task and requires experience, great care and skills. If saffron dries normally, it preserves its characteristic properties (colour-aroma) while at the same time its quality improves, without losing its colouring strength and its essential oil. After the drying, the separation of red stigmas from the yellow stamens, the pollen and any impurities, begins. This part of the process, which is done by hand, can last from 20 to 60 days. Finally, the dried product is separated based on the colour (red or yellow) ready for delivery.

Crop Yield And Plantation Span
The average produce per acre is 6kg of dried stigmas (red product). The lower production of the plant is on the first year of the plantation, while the highest on the third and the fourth.

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PRODUCTS

Saffron is a dynamically evolving product with significant potential in the domestic and international markets. The Saffron Producers Cooperative has acquired modern facilities; it sets new principles for its organisation and trains staff and farmers implementing innovative programmes.

In addition, in cooperation with various scientific institutions and with the full support of the local authorities, the Saffron Producers Cooperative has set important goals for the promotion of saffron. The most important steps are related to the promotion of the product with aggressive marketing, improving the packaging and informing the local market about the uses of saffron. An important prospect is the creation of infrastructure that will contribute to the expansion of cultivation of additional aromatic plants in the region, setting up new prospects for organic and profitable crops.

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PRODUCTS | SAFFRON POWDER

ORGANIC RED SAFFRON



PRODUCTS | SAFFRON STIGMATA

ORGANIC RED SAFFRON



PRODUCTS | SAFFRON STIGMATA

GREEK RED SAFFRON



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