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C. KozaniLocal Products: “Krokos Kozanis”: the affordable “red gold”

The Kozani Crocus (exported all over the world under the name “Krokos Kozanis”) grows from a small rounded bulb which is planted in late summer or early fall and produces small purple flowers, with three red-gold stigma strands in each flower. Saffron spice is made from these dried strands.

The product owes its beneficiary properties to the particular soil and climatic conditions of this area (well-tended fields, loads of light, drained soil of medium fertility with a warm temperate climate) as well as to the cultivation techniques and traditional practices followed by the area’s crocus growers.

The world’s most unique and precious spice!

Since ancient times, crocus has been renowned for its aroma and vibrant colour, but mostly for its pharmaceutical and aphrodisiac properties. Homer referred to it in his writings, while Cleopatra used it in her cosmetics. Try to include crocus in your daily life and you’ll be amazed by the myriad benefits you’ll gain:

• Firstly, crocus in general is an excellent stimulant. The healing properties of the plant are also countless! Its highly anti-inflammatory and its profound antioxidant properties have been proved true for long.

• Furthermore, crocus prevents platelet aggregation and improves cerebral function.

• Other properties of crocus enable lowering cholesterol, improving digestion, preventing nausea and soothing infant teething while its cancer preventive properties are being researched.

Did you know that? Use Krokos Kozanis as a spice for culinary purposes and you’ll adore its distinctive aroma, unique taste and beautiful golden colour. Nowadays, it is used in distilleries, dairy products and in numerous other applications. Its colouring power, verified by laboratory reports, is by 45 points higher than the minimum international colouring standard for all types of saffron.

Where you can find it and how to use it

You will be amazed by the innumerable benefits of crocus. Just get ready to use it for new culinary adventures! Infuse a few threads in a cup of water, but remember that crocus dislikes hot temperatures and it will refrain from letting you its colour and aroma if sunk into hot water.

Cook with red Greek crocus and indulge in its excellent flavour. But bear in mind that, unlike other spices, a good pinch is more than enough for adding flavour and colour to most dishes.

Crocus is available in the market both in threads and in powder. People tend to prefer threads, as they keep aroma and colour for much longer. Besides, you can easily crush the threads into powder.

When used sparingly, quality crocus adds rich golden colour and flavour to foods. There is a long list of foods where you can use it, ranging from cheese products such as cottage cheese and parmesan, to soups, chicken and meat, various spirits, pasta and rice.

The word “crocus”

The world has its origin in Greek mythology. Krókos was a dear friend of god Mercury (Hermes) in Ancient Greece. One day, while the two friends were throwing the disc to each other like a frisby, Mercury hit Krókos on the head and wounded him fatally. As the young man collapsed and while dying three drops from his blood fell on the centre of a flower thus becoming the three stigmata of the flower named after him. Etymologically, the word crocus derives from the Greek word “króki” = “κρόκη”, which means weft, the thread used for weaving on a loom.

Be part of a miracle

Although the ancient Minoans were known to cultivate saffron during Late Bronze Age Crete, its cultivation disappeared from Greece until the 17th C. when Greek Macedonian traders brought the plant from Austria to the region of Kozáni. Today, crocus is systematically cultivated and grown under the Greek sun in a unique area that encompasses many small villages in the Kozáni Prefecture, called Krokohória (= the crocus villages).

Autumn is the perfect time to spend some days in Krokohória and live the unique experience of harvesting the precious spice, which is actually the procedure of extracting the stigmas from the freshly harvested flowers and then laying them out to dry. It takes place between late October and early November. Visiting Krokohória, you will have the chance to meet the workers and their families, while collecting the crocus flowers. Early in the morning, bent for hours over the plants, they place crocus in their cloth aprons before transferring them into large baskets.

You’ll be interested to know that the rose of crocus blooms at dawn and should stay the least possible time in the plant as it withers quickly and the stigmas lose colour and aroma. That’s the reason why they are gathered between dawn and 10 a.m.

Once the flowers are gathered, stigmas are separated from the rest of the flower in the workers’ house. The stigmas have a high level of moisture so, for better preservation, it is necessary to dry them. That’s when they assume their definitive aspect: deep orange-red, irregular, rigid threads. After the process of roasting, the stigmas of crocus would have 1/5 of their original size. This means that for 1 kg of raw stigmas we will obtain 200 g of crocus ready for consumption. The fact that more than 85.000 flowers are needed to obtain just one kilo of crocus gives us an idea of how hard this work is, not to mention that the whole procedure is done without any help from technology.

The ”flower” of the Mediterranean cuisine

So, don’t hesitate any longer: let yourself indulge in the mystery of the Greek red crocus! Just add a small quantity of crocus to your coffee or tea and give your body an excellent beverage full of healthy elements, or treat your dishes with an exquisite flavour, colour and aroma. Make use of the inspiring power of crocus threads to set off for new, exhilarating journeys of gastronomic imagination.

Try a new recipe with crocus for the most nutritious pop corn your kids have ever had. For this healthful and guilt-free delight you’ll need:

• 1 cup of corn oil

• 1 packet of corn

• ¼ teaspoon crocus threads crushed

• 3 tablespoons melted peanut butter

• Salt

(1) Prepare the pop corn as usual.

(2) Heat the peanut butter with the crocus and pour it on top of the pop corn.

(3) Add some salt, and…

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