12 November, 2019
Italiano
Home / Posts Tagged "Saffron"

Let’s talk about the numbers: 150,000 / 180,000 flowers of Crocus Sativus cover an immense field beautiful and violet, and from all that field you get only one kilogram of saffron.

Red gold

A huge amount of flowers for a small product: of course this causes a raise in the price, as the caviar, but unlike this one, the saffron has a thousand-year history that oscillates between magic, health, prestige and cuisine. It has been a successful product for centuries, to the point of obtaining the nickname of red gold. It was a multitasking product, used as a dye for real fabrics, but also as a precious aphrodisiac and cosmetic to revive pale cheeks.
In Italy the word saffron immediately evokes the risotto alla Milanese, while in France it is an ingredient of bouillabaisse (fish soup) and in Sweden it is an element of the Grande Amaro Svedese.
Everyone uses saffron. In fact it is really requested and 180 tons a year are produced in the world. 90% comes from Iran. The powder of saffron is one of the spices which is most subject to fraudes and to be adulterated. The powder can be mixed with turmeric or with calendula, but there are those who do not hesitate to add powdered minerals or synthetic dyes. Moreover, as in ancient spices shops, there is also the risk of buying a badly preserved product.

 

prodotti tipici umbria

Saffron

Saffron of the dukedom

Once, the saffron arrived from the East following the path of the Via delle Spezie, eventually it started to be was cultivated in Italy too, above all in Abruzzo and in the territories of Spoleto and Terni.
Various historical and economic events had made it disappear from the domestic market, but now it is back and it is becoming really very important. In Italy it is not produce so much, but we cultivate the red saffron variet, which is really precious. In order to face the expenses and difficulties of cultivation and harvesting, forty Umbrian producers created an association with the evocative name of Saffron of the Dukedom, to rember the presence of the Duchy of Spoleto. One of the associates, Mr. Giuliano Sfascia, explained to me the characteristics that the product must have to be of the highest quality, and brought me to the field, where I observed the saffron itself.

 

umbria

The crocuses

 

The flowers, the crocuses, are born from the bulbs that are placed in the ground in July, but they do not bear the intensive cultivation, they need space and air, they grow on the hills, they need light and well drained soils, sandy or silty.
The 180,000 flowers, needed to obtain a kilo of saffron, can only be picked up by hand, bent over the crocuses, early in the morning, when the flowers are still closed. Each flower has only three red stigmas (antennines) that contain the spice which is the saffron. This harsh harvest is called overflowing and is done in October.
Once the flowers have been collected, the three stigmas are delicately come off, placed in a glass vase and immediately left to dry. The first they dry, the better the taste of the spice will be. Saffron production requires effort and many hours of work and it is subject to a thousand risks, bad weather and parasites. To all this we must add that every collection, to obtain the quality certification, must be analyzed by an authorized laboratory. Crocina, the color, Pirocrocina, the bitter taste and Safranale, the aroma, are the three substances that characterize the saffron, but only if the presence of these substances is high we have the saffron of the best quality. No magic. Good cultivation helps the three substances to give their best. So, good “risotto” to everyone.

The itinerary between the flavors and aromas of Valnerina continues with other products of this territory.

After lentils, honey and the Nera’s trout, let’s discover other local delicacies.

Roveja

This is the story of some small colored seeds, two tenacious women and a glass jar. In 1998 Silvana and Geltrude, were reorganizing the cellar of their house, after the earthquake occured in 1979. On this occasion they found a dusty glass jar full of colored seeds, together with a faded sheet of paper with a mysterious name written in pencil: roveja. It is a legume which blossoms on the heights of the Central Apennines. Roveja is a small and heroic legume, a type of wild pea, often considered as a weed. It is now a Slow Food Presidium and it has survived thanks to Silvana and Geltrude. Since 2006 roveja has been restarting to grow and blossom in Valnerina.

 

Norcinerie of Valnerina, photo by Officine Creative Italiane

Norcinerie

There is a craft in the heart of Valnerina, which preserves the identity of a territory and recalls its ancient traditions and memories: the “Norcino”. It finds its roots in the Pagan worships, in which the killing of pigs was the apex of agrarian rituals and marked an important periodo f the year.
The processing of pork meats is still a triumph of flavors and ancient feelings in Umbria.  Over the centuries it has becomes the fulcrum of an impenetrable magical-superstitious tradition. It consists of identifying in some characteristics of the entrails of the slaughtered beasts, prophetic and revealing visions.

 

Saffron, photo by Officine Creative Italiane

Saffron

The mystery which surrounds the etymology of the word Crocus Sativus, scientific name of the Saffron, is lost in the legend of the Crocco, one of the character of the Metamorphoses of Ovidio. He fell in love with the nymph Smilace and he was turned into a blond saffron flower. Symbol of prosperità, even today, the Crocus Sativus is presented as a long-life wish due to the therapeutic and aphrodisiac properties which are able to renew the body. It was used over the centuries, not only to obtain the yellow color destined to frescoes and to dye garments and fabrics, but also for cosmetic and medicinal purposes because of its properties.
The cultivation of Saffron is part of the Umbrian identity and history. It is something which  preserves an important link with the  human element: from the preparation of the soil, to the choice of bulbs passing through the moment of blossoming, until to the packaging of the final product.

 


First part