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Σάββατο, 18 Ιανουαρίου 2014

Saffron, the gold of Greek land


Saffron, the gold of Greek land as it is called, is one of the most beloved and precious spices of ancient cultures because of its aroma, colour, pharmaceutical and aphrodisiac properties. Cleopatra used it in her cosmetics, the ancient Phoenicians in their offerings to the goddess Astarte, Homer mentions it in his writings and it is even found in the Old Testament.

The locals are planting saffron every summer and when autumn comes, they remove the precious stigmas of the beautiful flower by hand and dry them thoroughly to make crimson slim threads. It takes about 50,000 stigmas to obtain 100gr of red saffron. Greek saffron is among the best saffron in the world, quality-wise.
Krocus Kozanis Products


Krocus Kozanis Products, established in 2007, is a joint venture between the Cooperative de Saffran of Kozani and the Greek skincare brand KORRES. The company takes its name from saffron (Krocus in Greek) and the area, this valuable spice is cultivated in, Kozani in North Greece.
In addition to developing products based on the beneficial properties of saffron – the variety cultivated in Kozani is considered among the best in the world – the company is also set to promote Greek Saffron globally.

History of Safron 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. ιστορία κρόκου 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.
ιστορία κρόκου 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).

Driven by clinical studies on the spice’s efficacy, a dedicated Research & Development team is working on fully exploring saffron’s benefits. A first taste of this ongoing effort, is the Krocus Kozanis Organic Herbal Tea Collection. This organic saffron tea line is the company’s debut in the nutraceutical market. It is also a worldwide innovation, as this is the first time, saffron is combined with various organic herbs to create premium taste blends that help establish the precious spice as an essential everyday nutrient.

Featuring seven blends, the Krocus Kozanis Organic Herbal Tea Collection is available in over 10 markets including Greece, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Spain, Poland, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Holland, Russia and Canada.

ABOUT SAFFRON
Research on saffron’s efficacy is multi-faceted and new findings are constantly being made. In addition to most recent discoveries, the spice’s beneficial action - iconvulsive, digestive and antiseptic - known through yesteryear’s traditional use is now supported by lab experts. Saffron stigmas are proven to have strong antioxidant properties, while also helping neutralize free radicals and boost memory.
Saffron quality is determined by laboratory monitoring of a number of variants such as crocin (colour), picrocrocin (taste) and safranal (flavour) content. Greek Saffron is considered the best in the world – scoring 66 points higher than the minimum international standards, as of 1998 it has entered the Register of Protected Designations of Origin.

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.

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.

ORIGINSaffron 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. κρόκος καταγωγή 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.  ιδιότητες κρόκου


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.

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.

CULTIVATION
The cultivation of edible saffron is made for the reddish stigmas of its flower (three columns of pistil), which is a product of high pharmaceutical, collouring, flavoring and scenting value.

Cultivating species of Saffron & special herbal characteristics
The only kind of saffron that is systematically cultivated around the world, for at least ten centuries, is the edible saffron or as it known in scientific (botanical) terminology Crocus Sativus Linneaus. The special botanical features of this kind of saffron are:
1. Bulbs
Diameter of about 2-3cm, fleshy with spherical shape with brown meshy tunics.
2. Flowers
There can be up to three flowers from each bulb, which come out in October/November and they form small bristled cones, which after some hours they open losing their first shape. These consist of:
* Six navy-purple petals, 4-5cm in length and 1cm in width
* Three yellow stamens
* The column which is divided into three stigmas
* The ovary which is narrow and contains many brown, round shaped sperms
The stigmas in particular, which give the prodrug of the plant, are glossy coloured red to orange and their length is 40-50mm, together with the part of the column. On the top they are jagged and because of their weight they are drooping; many times outside of the cone formed by the petals.

3. Leaves
The leaves that come out directly from the bulb are deepgreen, sword-like and streaked. They grow during the winter and in spring they reach 40-50cm, at which point they are harvested just before they dry out.





saffron in stamens



RECIPES

Tips for using Krokos Kozanis in cooking


Krokos Kozanis saffron gives to dishes a delicate aroma, a subtle spicy flavour and a beautiful yellow color. It goes perfectly with rice, pasta, sauces, chicken, fish soups, lamb, potatoes, pulses, bred and cakes, even ice-cream! Using Krokos Kozanis saffron is like using an expensive perfume: a little bit has an amazing effect, so it should be used sparingly, in the quantity stated in each recipe.
Krokos Kozanis in powder form is dissolved in water before being added to cooking.The stigmata of Krokos Kozanis are dissolved in a cup of water for 1 hour before cooking and added in food either together with the water or add just the water after straining out the stigmata.

Tips for using Krokos Kozanis in drinks


For every cup, use 10-12 stigmata of Krokos Kozanis or in powder form, use half of the 0,25g sachet. It is not necessary to dissolve powder previously, as you can add it directly to the drinks.




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Krokos is renowned in Greece and abroad for the production of the Greek Macedonian Saffron, which is one of the world's most intense and valuable varieties. Although the ancient Minoans were known to cultivate saffron during Late Bronze Age Crete, the cultivation of the plant disappeared from Greece until about 300 years ago, when Greek Macedoniantraders brought the plant from Austria to the region of Kozani. The town of Krokos is the base of the Cooperative of Saffron Producers of Kozani, a cooperative that counts 2000 members spread between 40 small villages. Annual production, depending on weather conditions, ranges from 6 to 12 tons of pure red saffron each year. Much of this production is certified organic. All of it is Protected Designation of Origin (PDO); no other region of Greece can produce Greek Red Saffron. It is also extremely high-quality: Greek Red Saffron, as provided by the Kozani Cooperative, has a guaranteed coloring strength of 230
.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krokos

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