Saffron is among the most precious of spices. It is in fact just the tip of the pistil of the violet colored saffron flower (the reddish strands of which you can make out in the picture) – the Crocus Sativus, portrayed in masterly fashion by our friend Patrick Lachassagne, responsible for the photo: thank you, Patrick – that gives us this aromatic substance with the capacity to create the characteristic color and flavor of risotto, fish soups, desserts and liquors… An essentially oriental aroma, originating in Asia Minor, and produced for a number of centuries in certain demarcated areas of Italy such as the Val d’Orcia in Tuscany, and, above all, in the Abruzzo. This particular example, from the Navelli plain in Abruzzo is saffron par excellence; the most prized and certainly the most famous in the world. Saffron arrived in Abruzzo from Andalusia via the Domenican friars sometime between the 13th and 14th centuries. At around the same time, the Benedictines introduced it into Tuscany. Production of Navelli saffron demands an extraordinary degree of attention and dedication. This is immediately obvious when you consider that both harvesting and production, as undertaken by the Altopiano Cooperative of Navelli, is done by hand. It takes around two hundred thousand flowers to yield one kilo of saffron stamens. The most highly rated Navelli saffron for all culinary uses is in the form of stamens or strands. This has the highest component of aroma and flavor, but requires a little effort before use, in that it needs to be soaked in very hot water. The DOP Navelli saffron is indispensable for a great Milanese-style risotto, or for an aromatic and elegant bouillabaisse, the famous fish soup from Marseilles. (It is also terrific, of course in home made fish soup).
- Saffron threads from prized variety from Abruzzo, D.O.P. certified
- Produced by Cooperativa Agricola Navelli
- Saffron threads give the best concentration of flavor
- Soak in hot water for a few hours before adding to your risotto Milanese
- A glass jar of 1 gr – 0.04 oz
Slow Food Italy has declared the Saffron from Navelli a rare treasure to be protected.
“Production of DOP Navelli saffron demands an extraordinary degree of attention and dedication. This is immediately obvious when you consider that both harvesting and production, as undertaken by the Altopiano Cooperative of Navelli, is done by hand. It takes around two hundred thousand flowers to yield about two pounds of saffron stamens.
The saffron is obtained and then the stigmas from the flower of the Crocus Sativus are dired. This plant is traditionally grown on the Navelli plateau (wedged between the parks of the Gran Sasso and the Velino Sirente) and Subequana Valley, where the ideal habitat of dry and windy climate and with soil that is very permeable (excessive moisture would rot the plant).
Harvesting is done manually in the early hours of the morning, when the corolla is still closed. Cut flowers are collected in wicker baskets and open with fingernails one by one, separating the stigmas from the stylus. Afterwards they place the pistils in a sieve that hangs on the hot ashes of the fireplace. The roasting must be slow and uneven. Then it is enclosed in bags and when dry, in small jars.” Translated from the Italian on the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, Ark of Taste