Greece aims exports food to fight crisis

  • 17 July 2016

The Greek economy is notorious: the common opinion is that it is irretrievable, and, as a consequence, the Hellenic peninsula is doomed to failure.

However, the Greek people are still alive and dynamic. Encouraging the production of unique products you can restore hope to the common people.

Food products of excellence, such as saffron, white mullet (made from cod roe) and mastic – a natural resin produced exclusively in the southern part of the island of Kios-, must be treated in order to encourage exports, open new markets.

Agriculture, therefore, must be the starting point. The only way to restart Greece is talking and to introduce its products, which are often unknown to the masses.

Saffron – the Greek gold – of land is one of the more popular spices and most precious of ancient civilizations to the aroma, colour, medicinal and aphrodisiac properties. Cleopatra used it in her beauty products, the ancient Phoenicians were offering to the goddess Astarte, Homer mentions it in his lyrics and he even met in the ‘Old Testament.

The history of saffron in the uses and customs in the kitchen dates back more than 3000 years ago. During the archaeological excavations of the Palace of Knossos in Crete they have found Thracian saffron of paintings that date back to 3500 years ago. These paintings show a young copy gathering crocus flowers in a basket.

In the south of Kozani region, in Greek Macedonia it is the territory of Krokos. This place is the only one in Greece and one of the only in Europe where saffron is harvested. The origins of the name of this town of 5,000 people are due to the crocus flower, crocus sativus or crokos in Greek.

The Greek saffron is grown exclusively in the Kozani region since the seventeenth century. In all these years we have accumulated considerable experience in the preparation of the product. Today, the production covers about 300 hectares of which 100 are dedicated to organic farming.

The world production of saffron is about 180 tons. The first manufacturer in the world is Iran with 130 tons and the second is Greece, with about 20 tons. Greece is thus the first European and, manufacturer also has a large certified organic saffron production, about 8 tons per year. The Greek saffron is particularly fragrant and much more colourful than the other.

Saffron comes from the dried pistil of the crocus flower; it is the only part that has researched aromatic qualities. The high cost of saffron is due to the difficulty of manually extracting large numbers of minute stigmas that are the only part of the crocus with the aroma and flavour you want. To obtain 1 kilogram of dried saffron it takes 5 kg of fresh pistils obtained with 300 kg of flowers or from 150,000 to 200,000 flowers. On average, a fresh flower makes 0,03g of fresh saffron or 0,007g of dried saffron. All the necessary operations for producing the saffron imply, as easily predictable, the use of many labourers. The collection, in fact, is still done by hand.

The production in Greece has its peculiarities: the real difference with the others is the type of processing and storage of the product. The Saffron harvest is very short, takes about 20-25 days and you make early in the morning, when you open the purple flower corolla.

The inhabitants of the region of Kozani plant the bulbs every summer. The collection is made between the second half of October and first of November, at dawn, before the sun face to open the flowers. The work is done by hand. In the same morning it does the buffing that separates the stigmas, always at hand. To at least maintain the quality and organoleptic characteristics of saffron, within two hours the stigmas are dried. Also weighing and packaging is done by hand to ensure an additional quality control.

In 1966 the saffron producers in the area have joined the Cooperative of Kozani Saffron Producers. The Cooperative has 1,000 members and has the exclusive right to collect, package and distribute the saffron of Kozani. The members give farmers the whole production to the cooperative, which will evaluate the quality: it suitable saffron is put on the market, while one that does not respect the standards is immediately destroyed, so it cannot be distributed in any way. This is the best way to ensure that saffron brand Krocus Kozanis is perfect and pure.

The Cooperative of Kozani Saffron Producers has obtained in 1997 the ISO 9001 quality assurance certification and has also developed a certified organic cultivation. Moreover, the name “Kozani Saffron” has been certified d ‘protected designation of origin (PDO).

The annual production in recent years is around 1200 to 2000 pounds of saffron.

Another interesting product is the organic herbal teas, such as the one with honey, orange and saffron, or the one with cinnamon, cloves and saffron. Between infusions, the considerable advantage is the organic green tea with ginger, liquorice and saffron.

Other food excellence Hellenic is the pistachio. Greece produces almost 10,000 tons of pistachios a year of excellent quality. There is then the white roe, a single product to base of cod roe. Typical are the chews, a natural resin produced exclusively in the southern part of the island of Chios: since ancient times it was used as a medicine and is chewed to clean the teeth. Today has turned into chewing gum chewing on the particular taste. Also this resin is used as flavouring in pastry and, among the delicacies, there are the cookies with chews and chews the ice cream with the favourite flavour from the Greeks. You cannot forget the Kalamata olives, black, fleshy, full of juice and then the wine, such as that produced by the grape agioritico of Nemea, which in ancient times was consumed during the athletic games of Nemea.





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