In autumn a couple of France countryside regions is quietly aglow with purple flowers… It’s not lavender, but crocuses: grown to produce the “red gold”, the fragrant spice saffron (safran in French).
Crocus Sativus little plants are 6 inches high only, sometimes less. One day the flowers are still tight buds. Next morning the farmer will wake up to find an entire field of crocuses in full bloom. Then she/he must move very fast indeed because crocuses last a day only. The flowers must be picked by hand at dawn, before the sun has withered them.
Each crocus has 3 forked red-deep colored stigmates which produce the saffron. Picking is delicate as stigmates must be detached gently with the finger nail, taking only the red end of the filament and leaving behind the orange base where the flavor is weaker.
The stigmates are oven-dried on harvest day to preserve the quality of saffron, and then matured for at least two months before going to sale.
It can take 75,000 saffron blossoms to produce a single pound of saffron spice but it’s sold by gram even less…
Despite of its high price, you use saffron in very small quantities. For example you can prepare between 80 to 160 dishes with only one gram of saffron!
Saffron is also good for health – The benefits and medicinal properties of this highly priced spice, make it a valuable culinary ingredient worldwide. Modern research suggests that saffron can be used as an aphrodisiac, diaphoretic (causing sweating) and carminative (to prevent gas). It protects against cancer. In Japan, saffron is encapsulated and used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, memory loss and inflammation. Saffron is a stimulant tonic and very effective to treat cold and fever. Last but not least, saffron increases vitality (in low libido saffron aids as a sexual stimulant and can be consumed in a dose of a pinch in a glass of milk at bed time)!
IMPORTANT ! You will maybe find a very cheap saffron on ebay or similar, but it’s very low quality!
The saffron I have carefully chosen from producers I know personally is grown on the most natural way, weeded by hand without fertilizers or chemicals.