Angelo Porcelli
Mon, 31 Oct 2005 00:44:25 PST
Interesting readings indeed !
I would add a few comments. First of all, Crocus thomasii is in full bloom here and there is a quite remarkable variabilty among them, some being very dark purple, some others very pale and some even netted. If there's any interest there, I will send seeds for your BX.

Saffron used in Indian cuisine is Carthamus tinctorium, a member of Asteraceae family, that is a kind of daisy and has nothing to compare with true saffron. If price of saffron is related to gold, the price of carthamus is neither relative of the worst silver !

Saffron has been cultivated in Italy for centuries, there's even a town in Sicily which get its name from it, that is Zafferana at the foothill of the volcano Etna, being zafferano the Italian name for the spice. Nowadays the most famous center of cultivation is Navelli, said to yield the best in the world and some localities in Sardinia. It seems there's a mild renewed interest in this spice and in some places it has starded to grow it again, mainly as a niche product.
Of course, this cultivation went down for the high costs of production, being the work all manual.

About the preparation of the spice, you should know that the stigmas are toasted (better, dried deeply) after collection to prevent them to go mould in the following storing and for this reason I suspect many of you haven't stored it properly.

Flowers are picked up early in the morning before they open, that is all the flower is collected at first, cutting it from the base with the fingernail and avoiding to touch the inside with dirty fingers. The flowers are later open and the stigmas removed, all in few hours.

Also, corms are lifted every season, selected by size and replanted only the true flowering size, while the other are nurseried apart for another season.The soil is also raked, feeded etc for the new planting, i.e. like a potato field renewed yearly.

Culinary uses are many and while some are known worldwide, some others are just local traditions. 'Risotto' all you know, but there's a good liqueur made from saffron which retain its scent and can be used for many purpose. Also in some Sicilian cakes, the 'ricotta' (buttermilk curd or cream-cheese ??) is flavoured with saffron

Angelo Porcelli
south of Italy...where a lot of flowers around cause a 'little spring' feeling again.

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