Saffron: a high maintenance love affair

Saffron production is a labour of love – a process so labour intensive that it is hardly surprising that the fiery coloured spice is the most expensive in the world.

But to find the best quality saffron, you don’t have to travel far. Our very own P-O has a number of saffron producers and as with much of our regional produce, autumn is harvest time.

Find out what happens prior to picking here.


Once the beautiful lilac flowers with the tell-tale red stamens at their centres start to poke through the ground in October and November, the clock is ticking!

If the flowers are exposed to just a few hours of sunlight, they wither! This means that early each morning, the new flowers need to picked.

Because the flowers are so fragile, the picking must be done by hand!

Faire le rouge

Plucking out the saffron threads to separate them from the flowers is known as farie le rouge and is also done by hand.

It’s a very delicate procedure and getting it wrong can spoil the quality, and therefore value, of the final product.

The ideal plucking spot is just where the yellow style meets the red stigma.


Congratulations! You now have fresh saffron. Unfortunately the stigmas can lose up to 80% of their weight when dried… no wonder it’s so expensive!

Dried saffron is light and brittle. It should be stored in air-tight container for one month, allowing time for the flavour to intensify.

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