What You Need To Know About Harvesting Saffron In Abruzzo, Italy

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Saffron, a herb derived from nan Crocus sativus flower, is astir commonly associated pinch Asia and nan Middle East. But saffron crocus thrive astir nan Mediterranean, including Italy, wherever they don’t only exalt section dishes, but besides uplift section communities.

The saffron harvest takes spot each October successful L'Aquila, Abruzzo.

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A Brief History Of Saffron

Saffron has a agelong history. A precious herb believed to person originated successful Iran successful nan 10th period BC, it has journeyed on waste and acquisition routes ever since. Saffron is cited successful humanities writings for illustration Ovid’s poesy and nan Bible, and it was a celebrated coloring supplier successful antiquity. The Ancient Egyptians utilized saffron for cooking and medicinal purposes, and Cleopatra favored nan herb for its cosmetic purposes, arsenic nan yellowish pistils of nan flower person illuminating properties connected nan skin.

Saffron is derived from nan Crocus sativus flower.

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Today, astir saffron is chiefly cultivated successful Iran and India wherever it flavors a assortment of atom dishes and sweets jalebi and halva. In Europe, Spain and Greece lead nan saffron production, though Italy, too, has a history of cultivating nan spice. Milan’s signature crockery “risotto allo zafferano” — a classical comfortableness nutrient often served pinch osso buco (braised veal shank) — is 1 of nan country’s astir celebrated dishes and astir households person a mini vial of saffron threads to infuse sauces and broths pinch nan fragrant aroma.

Risotto allo Zafferano, a classical Milanese dish.

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Zafferano: Italian Saffron

In Italy, saffron cultivation is concentrated successful Abruzzo, specifically successful nan Navelli highlands surrounding L’Aquila. Saffron was 1 of galore herbs and spices traded on nan Silk Road, and its presence successful Italy is apt owed to a Dominican monk who brought nan herb complete from Spain successful nan 14th century.

Legend has it that he was truthful enamored by nan Crocus flower’s agleam purple petals, he brought nan bulbs complete successful an umbrella erstwhile he came to settee successful nan mini hilltop municipality of Navelli. As it happens, nan region was nan cleanable breeding crushed for nan beautiful flower, arsenic nan Crocus sativus requires ample sunlight, debased rainfall and well-draining soil. For centuries, Abruzzo produced nan herb which was sold passim nan state and nan continent.

Navelli, a medieval municipality successful nan state of L'Aquila, is renowned for nan section saffron production.

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Le Vie dello Zafferano

Today, Abruzzo’s saffron is safeguarded by a taste relation called Le Vie dello Zafferano — nan Paths of Saffron — and nan herb received a Protected Denomination of Origin position successful 2005. This intends nan 50-odd producers domiciled successful 13 villages must adhere to accumulation guidelines successful bid to guarantee value controls and purity.

It takes 200 blooms to nutrient 1 gram of saffron, and nan process is agelong and arduous. The harvest happens during nan period of October which sees producers spell retired astatine dawn each greeting to mildly prime nan crocus flowers, 1 by one, by hand. Once they’ve filled their baskets, they must gentle region nan reddish pistils from nan flower: these are later dried complete a wood-burning grill pursuing nan guidelines successful nan Zafferano dell’Aquila DOP protocols.

Saffron threads are dried complete an open-air grill.

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Uplifting nan Territory

Each year, only 20kg of saffron is produced successful L’Aquila but its precocious unit worth is meaningful for a region which has seen slow economical maturation and financial struggles successful nan past fewer decades. Selling for €30 per gram, 1 kg of saffron is worthy €30,000, providing meaningful activity for farmers and nan community.

Italy is simply a seismic country, and L’Aquila has been damaged by a number of earthquakes complete clip — astir precocious successful 2009 erstwhile 309 group died and much than 1,600 were injured. Its reconstruction has been slow and costly, and galore buildings successful nan historical halfway are still uninhabited.

Abruzzo’s system is mostly agricultural, and nan region supported by accumulation of wine, oliva oil, wheat and maize. And now, acknowledgment to Le Vie dello Zafferano association, saffron arsenic well.

Saffron flowers successful a basket.

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“By reclaiming our ancient traditions, we are championing our identity,” opportunity Roberto Santangelo, nan President of nan Municipal Council of L’Aquila. “Saffron is simply a unsocial portion of Abruzzo’s history. Saffron, for illustration wool, helped create our buildings.” L'Aquila's awesome 15th-century Basilica di San Bernardino is 1 of nan city’s 99 churches and its building was mostly funded acknowledgment to profits from locally-harvest saffron during nan Middle Ages. “This herb is successful our history: successful our past, successful our coming and we hope, successful our future,” he explains.

A Community Effort

By safeguarding and promoting this uncommon spice, Abruzzo’s saffron relation does not only thief by trading its economical opportunities. It has besides brought nan agrarian organization together. Every year, nan relation hosts a harvest show connected nan past play of October. Children and adults alike caput retired into nan fields to prime flowers and study much astir this herb done workshops, performances and quality walks. The arena culminates successful a adjacent pinch unrecorded intermezo and nutrient stands serving saffron-infused drinks and dishes.

Local businesses for illustration Gelateria Duomo — 1 of nan top-rated gelaterie successful Italy pinch 3 shops successful L’Aquila — person joined successful connected nan action and nutrient a bid of saffron-flavored crystal creams incorporating ingredients for illustration achromatic almond nougat, atom and vanilla. Anbra, an artisanal microbrewery, infuses saffron into its blonde brew D’Oro Rosso ("Red Gold", an homage to nan Crocus flower’s agleam reddish pistils). The Michelin-starred cook William Zonfa, who presides complete Palazzo Micheletti (a gourmet edifice successful L’Aquila) is ambassador of Zafferano dell’Aquila DOP and uses nan herb successful galore of his dishes.

Saffron gelato by Gelateria Duomo.

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And Italian skincare brands, for illustration Tindora, person capitalized connected saffron’s wellness properties arsenic well. Saffron is simply a rich | root of minerals and bioactive chemicals, successful peculiar carotenoids — nan red, orangish and yellowish pigments recovered successful various plants. When utilized successful cosmetics, saffron tin person anti-aging properties and protect against oxidative stress.

“The imaginable of saffron extends beyond its uses successful nan kitchen,” explains Professor Maria Giuliana Tozzi, a nutritionist who has published galore studies astir its benefits. “It tin beryllium incorporated successful galore different areas of life, and tin moreover bolster section tourism. The tulip fields of Holland and nan lavender fields of France person go celebrated astir nan world. Abruzzo’s saffron fields person nan imaginable to tie much liking successful nan region, too.”

A section of saffron flowers.

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