Homemade Saffron

How to farm Saffron in Italy – Why Real Saffron is so expensive (The Red Gold)

Every year, Italy’s sun-drenched fields carry the promise of saffron, a herb otherwise known as “red gold”.

While today the ancient herb is painstakingly cultivated by dedicated farmers and it is famous for its quality and flavour, it was traditionally used by the Greeks and Romans as perfume.

The story behind the harvest is captivating and recently, we met Donatella and her incredibly devoted family who have been growing saffron for generations. Their strong connection to the land and reverence for tradition can be seen in every saffron thread they grow, and for this they are immensely proud.

In this fascinating episode, Donatella takes us on a breathtaking tour through her farm in Italy and she guides us through the process of harvesting the vibrant saffron. From this you will be able to better understand why this “red gold” thread is worth its’ expensive price tag.

 

How Homemade Saffron is Made in Italy – The Red Gold

Homemade Saffron

How to Use and Serve Saffron

The most popular way to serve saffron is to mix it in warm liquids like milk, broth, or water. Infusing the saffron creates bases for dishes like risotto, paella, soups, and sauces. Additionally, it can add a new level of flavour to rice and also enhance fish dishes.

Many chefs like to experiment with desserts, adding saffron to ice cream, custards, cakes, or even flavouring honey then drizzling it over sweets – or something simple like ricotta on crusty sourdough bread.

When used carefully, just enough saffron gives bread, pastries, and even cocktails profundity.

How to Make Saffron

The Process of Harvesting Saffron

Saffron, often referred to as “red gold” has been cultivated with passion in Abruzzo for centuries. Donatella and her family of talented and well-skilled farmers teach us how they tend to and acquire saffron.

This video offers an exclusive glimpse into her family’s saffron farm in Italy, where the meticulous process of harvesting this precious spice is an art form that combines tradition, dedication, and pride.

The Birth of Saffron Crocus

Long before harvest time, the saffron journey begins. When planting Saffron bulbs, the location must be sunny and well-drained in Autumn. Careful nurturing is the first step and guarantees that the crocus blooms at an ideal time of 3 weeks.

The saffron bulb comes from the crocus flower and the herb itself from the stigma of these blossoms. You can imagine the process is as intricate as it is time-consuming!

Each saffron bulb will produce just one bloomer and each bloomer will produce only three of these stigmas, giving you more insight into why saffron is so valuable.

A Delicate Harvest

The peak of the saffron crocus blossoms marks the beginning of the harvest, which follows a time of hard work and careful attention. Ideal pollinators, such as bumblebees, are sought among the blooms during this time of year.

Farmers slowly pluck these blooms at the base of the flower and put them in the harvesting basket. It’s essential to collect the flowers every morning – failing to do so will result in their withering the following day.

Afterwards, the family gathers around to collectively extract the stigmas from the plants.

This phase of the harvest is the most time-consuming, as the plucking process demands precision and care. Can you imagine how careful you need to be?

Basking in the Autumn Sun

Once the saffron threads have been harvested, they are spread out to dry. Their brilliant red colour deepens as they soak up the golden rays. And it becomes the distinctive crimson it is known for. The stage of drying is crucial as it improves the spice’s visual appeal and concentrates its flavour.

Another way of drying the stigmas is to lay them near the fireplace for a few hours. Lways make sure they are completely dry before storing.

Preservation and Presentation

When you completely dry the threads, delicately wrap them in little containers. You can store it in the pantry for a maximum of 3 years.

As you enjoy Italy’s saffron, or see a small jar of the “red gold”, next time you visit Italy, just know that you join a timeless tradition of savouring the delicious flavour of this precious herb.

And when you see the price tag, be sure to keep in mind not only the rich history tied to saffron but also the commitment that goes into every single thread.

Homemade Saffron in Italy

The most common way in Italy to use saffron is certainly to prepare Saffron Risotto (also called “Risotto all Milanese”) and here you can find my recipe:

How to make Saffron Risotto like an Italian

Join my private exclusive Italian Tours “Italy Unexplored Tour” and experience the Real Italy like you have never seen before.

The tour is exclusive to only 10 passionate foodies and it’s very unique. (Click here to get more details)

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