Precious saffron, a spice rich in properties and versatile in the kitchen

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Carlos Laforet Coll
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The carmine red of its pistils, their intense and persistent aroma and the slightly bitter aroma that characterizes them make saffron one of the most precious and expensive spices in the world.

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The carmine red of its pistils, their intense and persistent aroma and the slightly bitter aroma that characterizes them make saffron one of the most precious spices e expensive in the world.

Used both in medicine and in cooking, this precious spice - very rare but increasingly known and used - contains numerous beneficial substances for our body and many organoleptic properties, which make it very versatile, ideal for the preparation of simple or elaborate dishes, both savory and sweet.

Among the numerous beneficial characteristics of saffron (we recall that according to various scientific intuitions this spice would have many therapeutic uses for which, however, official evidence is lacking) its activity as a regulation of digestion, her antioxidant properties (therefore ideal against aging) and - according to some sources - .

If in ancient times it was used as powerful dye for fabrics and fabrics of various types, today saffron comes mainly used in the kitchen, to flavor dishes and enhance the flavors of raw materials. The foods thus acquire a unique and unmistakable taste, pleasant and persistent, thanks to the presence of three active ingredients: the crocina, substance responsible for the brilliant coloring of this spice, the saffron, from which its heady fragrance and the picrocrocin, which has a perceptible bittering power as an aftertaste.

But the preciousness of this spice is linked, in particular, to cultivation and harvesting methods, which occurs early in the morning, before the beautiful lilac-colored flowers open: per keep all their properties unchanged, the stigmas must not be exposed to the sun's rays and therefore the harvesting operations must be done quickly and by many people at the same time.



Photo: www.zafferanodicori.com

Once the flowers are collected, the stigmas are subjected to a long and delicate manufacturing process, which allows these flowers to be transformed into spice: the saffron stigmas are first manually removed from the flower and then left to dry. A delicate and fundamental process, which - to keep the organoleptic properties of the spice unaltered - must take place on the same day as the harvest.

Le stages of removal and drying of the stigmatai are the most important moments for production, which requires a lot of work and patience: to produce a gram of saffron it takes from 120.000 to 200.000 flowers.

Among most famous DOP crops of our country surely there is that of L'Aquila, which involves an area defined by a small number of municipalities in the province: Barisciano, Caporciano, Fagnano alto, Fontecchio, L'Aquila, Molina Aterno, Navelli, Poggio Picenze, Prata d'Ansidonia, San Demetrio nei Vestini, S. Pio delle Camere, Tione degli Abruzzi and Villa Sant'Angelo.

Another area famous for the cultivation of the precious DOP saffron is that Sardinian of the Middle Campidano, which involves the municipalities of San Gavino Monreale, Turri and Villanovafranca.

Photo: www.zafferanodicori.com

But in addition to the crops present in famous and sponsored regions, we find others that are less renowned, but equally valuable. This is the case with the Cori saffron, a town in the Agro Pontino, in the province of Latina, where this precious spice is cultivated as it once was, in a manual and natural way, without the use of chemicals.

Saffron comes dried at a temperature of 45 degrees centigrade on the same day in which it is collected and removed from the flower, thanks to a process that still follows ancient traditions today: to preserve its purity and all its organoleptic properties, the stigmas are packaged whole in sealed glass jars.



To get a kilogram of Cori saffron about 150.000 flowers are needed, which means that about 450 stigmas and 500 hours of work are needed for one gram.

Now do you understand why it is so valuable?

Verdiana Amorosi

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- Vegetarian quiche with basil shortcrust pastry e saffron

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