The protected designation of origin (PDO) guarantees that all stages of the production process, processing and manufacturing take place in the area.
The yolk of Kozani PDO, or Greek saffron (crocus), is known for its excellent quality, its vibrant color and intense taste. It has several uses, and the harvest, It is dried and packaged according to a special method dating back to antiquity.
The yolk (or the crocus flower), from which saffron is produced, was already collected from the Minoan period (2.600 – 1.100 e.g.). "The yolk collectors", a mural dating from 1.600 e.g., shows young women collecting yolk, thus reflecting the importance it had already had since that time.
Crocus collection, Minoan period in Greece
The yolk collection is already found in the Minoan period in Greece. "The crocus collectors" his mural 1.600 e.g. - Intellectual property rights: Yann Forget / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0
In addition, reference to the flowers and the spots of the saffron we find in the first literary texts, such as the works of Homer or the Old Testament, as well as in Greek mythology. The god Hermes (son of Zeus, messenger of the gods and god of commerce) he practiced discus throwing with his good friend Krokos, a young mortal. Some point, Hermes fatally wounded Crocus in the head. As Crocus fell dead, Hermes decided to grant him immortality by transforming his friend's lifeless body into a beautiful purple flower and his blood into three red spots in the center of the flower.
Today, Greek saffron comes exclusively from the region of Kozani. Its cultivation in this area dates back to the 17th century, as, the special soil-climatic conditions that prevail there (drained, moderately fertile soil, warm temperate climate), combined with specialized knowledge for the cultivation and harvesting of plants, give a product of exceptional quality.
Crocus flowers begin to appear in mid-October for 20 to 25 days. During the harvest, the flowers are carefully collected by hand, from sunrise to almost sunset, in aprons or baskets.
They are then assembled on a special table and, with the help of an electric fan, the stamens and spots are separated from the rest of the flower. The most important and difficult part is drying, which requires special attention and skill. If not done correctly, the quality and special features of the product are subject to change.
The fresh spots are placed in thin layers on silk-based sieves. Subsequently, transported to well-ventilated, heated areas. This work is done entirely by hand and lasts from 20 to 60 days. After drying, the product is sorted and cleaned and placed in containers for delivery to the cooperative. This whole process should be completed by the end of March.
Once delivered to the cooperative, the yolk is mainly controlled for the humidity level, due to the risk of fungal spread, which could then degrade the quality of the product. Humidity level should not be higher than 8 to 11,5 %. Additional checks are also carried out to ensure that there are no foreign matter or that the amount of pollen is not too high.
Once you have successfully passed all the tests, the yolk is packed. For use as a spice it is usually presented in a package of one, two, four or 28 grams. However, can also be sold in smaller quantities in powder form - from 0,25 up to one gram.
Yolk is mainly used in cooking, in small quantities due to its intense taste. It is often used to flavor rice that accompanies fish or chicken, for example. However, its strong pigmenting ability, particularly strong in the Kozani yolk PDO, has the effect of also being used in the manufacture of paints or in the dyeing of garments. Because of the healing properties they give it, yolk is found in the composition of cosmetic or medicinal products.
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