In search of red gold
Since the ninth century, the fields of La Mancha have grown one of the most valuable spices on the planet, saffron rose, a humble flower but one of great flavour. It is not its striking violet colour, but rather it is red stems that are used in a multitude of macerations of Spanish gastronomy, such as the famous pincho moruno or paella.
Saffron fashion is a centenary tradition. In October, whoever might go to La Solana (Ciudad Real, a few kilometres from Madrid) or Consuegra (very close to Toledo), will see women sitting at their tables in the streets separating the stems from the leaves while pleasantly chatting. It is a laborious process that justifies the name of “red gold” and its high price of up to 3,000 Euros a kilo. Saffron is planted and harvested by hand, but beware, it can only be gathered between sunrise and 10 in the morning before the sun warms, for the plant is so delicate that a single hour can do away with all of its aromatic value. Once in the basket, each gram comes from nine flowers, and each kilo is the sum of 85,000 flowers. Once separated, the stems are left to dry on ovens or stoves that are only slightly warm, to prevent it from over-drying. Saffron is of such value in these lands that at weddings, just as rice is thrown in other places, in La Mancha the couple are given stems of saffron to wish them luck.
Spanish saffron accounts for 50% of the trade throughout the world, and although competition from countries such as India, which produce it cheaper and in larger quantities, has affected its profits, the product of these lands is still the variety most sought-after by gourmets.
On the social media
Did you like it?
Thanks for voting!