Saffron, the Gold of the Greek Earth
Spring is in the air and so are the crocus flowers that are popping out of the ground these days!
Less obvious perhaps is the fact that, from the threads (styles) of the crocus flowers in Greece, saffron is produced. It is also referred to as the Gold of the Greek Earth.
The flowers are an agricultural product from Kozani (northern Greece) and more specifically from Krokos, a village nearby, named by the flower itself. The harvest of the so called Greek golddrops involves 40 small villages in the area and one of the most valuable and intense varieties can be found here. The saffron from this area is PDO protected by the European Union due to its particularly high quality and strong flavour.
History tells us that it was already amongst the most popular and valuable spices of ancient civilisations, for its flavour, color, pharmaceutical and aphrodisiac properties. Although the ancient Minoans were known to cultivate saffron during the late bronze age in Crete, the cultivation disappeared from Greece until the 17th century, when Greek traders from the region of Kozani brought the plant back from Austria.
The residents of the Kozani area plant the crocus flowers every summer and when Autumn arrives, they manually remove the precious threads of the beautiful flower and they carefully dry them to capture the deep red delicate yarns. Nearly fifty thousand threads are needed in order to produce 100 gr of red saffron!
(The first photo was shot by Dimitris Vavliaras, courtesy of prlogos.gr)