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.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, all good stories deserve to be told from the beginning!
Once upon a time…
… in May or June, the crocus sativus bulbs have to be prepared. The hairy outer layers need to be removed, by hand, until only one remains.
This pain staking process keeps producers occupied until the height of summer, when planting begins.
Under the fiery heat of the P-O sun, bulbs are planted into ploughed and fertilised fields. They are placed, one by one, into furrows, 15 – 20cm apart and 20cm deep.
Saffron grows best between 400 and 800 metres of altitude, on south-facing slopes on well-drained but fertile soil.
The bulbs are planted and covered by hand, ensuring the perfect nesting place for nature to work her magic over the coming months.
The first shoots begin to appear in early October. Tiny, fragile green stems push through the sun-beaten and wind-whipped earth.
Before long, they will start to blossom into beautiful, delicate lilac flowers with the tell-tale fiery red saffron stamens at their centres.
And then the clock is ticking!