Red Greek Saffron
Crocus Sativus, commonly known as saffron crocus, is a plant from which one of the most expensive spices is derived. Its reproduction is achieved through the splitting and sowing of its bulbs.
Evidence of its use as an aromatic plant were found in Asia Minor and Ancient Egypt. It was also popular in Minoan and Classical Greece where they used it as a pigment as well. The Greeks were also aware of its beneficial properties against insomnia and intoxication. The Arabs discovered its use as an anesthetic.
Saffron cultivation requires dry and hot summer and cold winter conditions, dry, calcareous, and flat soil, without trees nearby. Sowing takes place in June and July and harvest in late October or early November.
The flower blossoms at dawn and should be detached as soon as possible from the plant because it withers quickly, resulting the stigmas to lose their vivid colour and scent. Once the flowers are collected, the stigmas are separated from the flower.
It takes 85,000 flowers for a kilo of fresh crocus stigmas. The stigmas then are dried to be preserved for long and to acquire the red colour. From one kilo or 10,000 pieces of fresh stigmas are produced 200 grams of dried stigmas. In order to maintain their characteristics, stigmas must be protected from moisture, sunlight and heat. The whole process should be completed by the end of March.
The village of Krokos close to Kozani and some other villages nearby in the western part of Macedonia was the only place in Greece saffron was cultivated, until 2017 when production also commenced in Neos Skopos, near Serres in the eastern part of Macedonia. The annual crocus production ranks Greece in the world’s top three nations.
Cultivation in Kozani began in the 17th century. It is harvested, dried and packaged according to a method used in antiquity.
Krokos (saffron) Kozanis’ use as a spice, is famous worldwide due to its excellent quality, strong taste and vivid colour, and is a protected designation of origin by the European Union.
The soil and the weather conditions in the area favour saffron’s cultivation. Combined with the producers’ deep knowledge of the required method, a product of exceptional quality emerges.
Besides the taste Krokos Kozanis adds to food, it has many medicinal properties as well, due to the ingredients picrocrocin and crocin it contains. Krokos Kozanis also contains vitamin B12, lycopene, zeaxanthin, alpha-beta carotene, vitamin C, iron, potassium and magnesium.
Studies show that saffron stigmas are water-soluble carotenoids that can inhibit the growth of leukemic cells.
Here’s a list of the beneficial impact of saffron on our health:
- contributes to the treatment of ophthalmic disease;
- relieves stomach ache;
- soothes kidney pain;
- in small doses stimulates the appetite and facilitates digestion;
- reduces gastric pain, hysteria, convulsions, whooping cough and nervous colic;
- protects the skin from acne with its external use;
- has antidepressant, antioxidant, anti-aging and anti-cancer properties (for neuroblastoma, breast cancer and adenocarcinoma of the colon);
- enhances brain function and memory;
- lowers cholesterol and has anticoagulant action;
- lowers blood pressure;
- helps with asthma attacks, premenstrual syndrome, nausea, digestive disorders, teething disorders;
- has aphrodisiac properties and
- contributes in the fight against stress and pneumococcal diseases
Saffron can be swallowed as a beverage or used as a spice. As far as cooking is concerned it should be used in small quantities. It adds a spicy taste to food has a nice scent and a yellow colour. It can also be added in powder form, dissolved in water.
As a spice, it is often sold in a package of one, two, four and 28 grams. However, it can be found as well in smaller quantities in powder form - from 0.25 to one gram.
The dyeing properties of Krokos Kozanis, result to its use in the colour industry and in the textile dyeing sector.