Harvesting the crocus
Be part of a miracle!
Although the ancient Minoans were known to cultivate saffron during Late Bronze Age Crete, its cultivation disappeared from Greece until the 17th C. when Greek Macedonian traders brought the plant from Austria to the region of Kozáni. Today, the crocus is systematically cultivated and grown under the Greek sun in a unique area that encompasses many small villages in the Kozáni Prefecture, called Krokohória (= the crocus villages).
Autumn is the perfect time to spend some days in Krokohória and live the unique experience of harvesting the precious spice, which is actually the procedure of extracting the stigmas from the freshly harvested flowers and then laying them out to dry. It takes place between late October and early November.
Visiting Krokohoria, you will have the chance to meet the workers and their families while collecting the crocus flowers. Early in the morning, bent for hours over the plants, they place crocus in their cloth aprons before transferring them into large baskets.
You’ll be interested to know that the rose of crocus blooms at dawn and should stay the least possible time in the plant as it withers quickly and the stigmas lose colour and aroma. That’s the reason why they are gathered between dawn and 10 a.m.
Once the flowers are gathered, stigmas are separated from the rest of the flowers in the workers’ house. The stigmas have a high level of moisture so, for better preservation, it is necessary to dry them. That’s when they assume their definitive aspect: deep orange-red, irregular, rigid threads. After the process of roasting, the stigmas of crocus would have 1/5 of their original size. This means that for 1 kg of raw stigmas we will obtain 200 g of crocus ready for consumption. The fact that more than 85.000 flowers are needed to obtain just one kilo of crocus gives us an idea of how hard this work is, not to mention that the whole procedure is done without any help from technology.