One of the most expensive herbs used in gourmet cuisine come from the city of Kozani in Greece. Safran or ‘krokos Kozanis’ in Greek, is a high-quality spice that comes from the stamen, part of the female organs of the flower. Many Crocus species are native to the Mediterranean basin and Persia but Crocus sativus is the one cultivated species called Safran.
The history and tradition of krokos in these areas dates back to ancient Egypt, with Pharaohs and Cleopatra using it for its aroma and medicinal properties. It was truly the herb of the rich, because collecting just a small number of tiny stamens demanded a hard work for cultivation and also collection and storage. In ancient Greece, frescos in Minoan Palace (1600 BC) depicting with krokos-collectors represented the holy and medicinal properties of krokos. Nowadays, its high value persists.
Even though agricultural science has solved problems in many cultivation matters and has made the production easier from more numerus of plants, krokos cultivation has retains the traditions of the past in order to maintain high quality. It is one of the cases where technology cannot beat nature. Cultivation needs a very specific soil and microclimate in order for the krokos to be of the best quality.
This is why Kozani produces some of highest quality krokos. The area there is ideal for the plant and traditional methods of collection have remained untouched since the 17th century. Plants growing in Kozani thrive and after-cultivation traditional techniques make the final product flourish with intense taste, aroma, and color. A perfect way to use these valuable small stamens is dilute them in a glass of warm water and add it in the final boil of a risotto recipe.
But be careful: in order to have get the most out it in terms of aroma and color, try not to add it in recipes with other intense flavors and ingredients. Use 5-6 stamens for a 4-person risotto. Also, you can add 1-2 stamens in your favorite cup of tea. Do not boil them with the rest of the herbs, just put them raw in your cup and enjoy!
* The above is not medical advice but mere suggestions for improving your diet. Before reach herbal use you should consult your doctor, especially those who have health issues, are pregnant or are under the age of 6.
Evropi-Sofia Dalampira is an Agriculturist-MSc Botany-Biology and PhD Candidate in Agricultural-Environmental Education and Science Communication.