April 8, 2013

Crocus tale: Greece to the Adirondacks


Maybe the only connection is the “us” of Mount Olympus and crocus, but I will have to wait until the fruition of President Barack Obama’s Brain Mapping Project to understand the mystery of how my brain works.

So until then, computer-assisted reporting led me to a YouTube video of the theme song to “The Mighty Hercules.”

At St. Lyrics, I found the forgotten words once eagerly shouted by my cousins and me at the black-and-white Zenith set.

“Hercules, hero of song and story.

Hercules, winner of ancient glory.

Fighting for the right,

Fighting with his might,

With the strength of ten, ordinary men.”

After “The Mighty Hercules,” Google led me to Ivy Liacopoulou, a Greek Cypriot who blogs “Kopiaste ... to Greek Hospitality.”

Crocus has Greek origins like Hercules, which is Roman for the Greek muscleman Heracles.

Hermes, the Greek god and not the label, was best friends forever with Crocus. They were winging a discus, ancient Greece’s Frisbee equivalent, between them when Crocus was struck by the heavy object and sustained a fatal head injury. As he died, three drops of his blood fell into the center of the flower, which bears his name today. Each flower has three vibrant stigmata, from which the spice saffron is made. 

In her blog, Liacopoulou writes:

“In Greece, it is cultivated exclusively in Kozani region. Collecting crocus is not an easy job. The workers, bent for hours over the plants, collect and place the flowers in their cloth aprons and then transfer them into baskets. A skilled worker can collect 30,000 flowers in a single day. It takes 150,000 flowers to deliver 1 kilogram of dried crocus stigmata, thus making it the most expensive spice in the world.”

On Liacopoulou’s blog, she has a divine recipe for saffron-lemon rice pudding.

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