Saffron Italy – Castello del Trebbio production saffron in Italy Florence
Discovering saffron in the Florentine hills
Numerous historical testimonies attest to the presence of saffron in the Florentine Hills since at least 1300. At that time the spice was known as the “Zima di Firenze”, and already appreciated internationally.
Starting from these premises Anna Baj Macario, together with her husband Stefano and some friends made the decision during an informal dinner to start up a new project: the “renaissance” of Florentine saffron. A few years later, this group of friends created the Associazione Produttori Zafferano delle Colline Fiorentine.
Besides being used for the preparation of delicious dishes, saffron has always been so valuable that it was originally also used as a goods for trade barteringg, as well as a medicine and as a colouring agent. The colour of saffron when use to dye fabrics in that period gave such unique shade that owning such a garment conferred great prestige to those who wore it.
In addition, saffron has many therapeutic properties, from its beneficial effects on the nervous system as a natural antidepressant, to the antioxidant properties which benefit not only the memory, but also the skin thus resulting in its use in cosmetics. The high vitamin A concentration helps to reduce problems with eye sight in old age, it is also an excellent anti-inflammatory, both with regard to inflammation of the respiratory tract (asthma) and for muscle and digestive system inflammation. Finally, it has analgesic properties (reducing various kinds of pain), it is excellent in fighting diabetes (regulating the level of sugar) and for the health of the heart as it lowers blood pressure and reduces cholesterol.
Among curiosities regarding saffron we should include its aphrodisiac properties for men, while remembering the risk of miscarriage following the consumption of at least 10g for women.
While bartering with saffron is no longer possible today, it still remains one of the most precious spices on the market.
Its high economic value is mainly due to the production techniques. All the operations, from sowing to harvesting, are carried out by hand and at particular times of the day. The bulbs are planted between July and August on raised beds, since the soil prepared in this way is ideal for ensuring the correct water drainage, avoiding stagnation.
In Autumn, between October and November n, the flowers are picked in the morning before they open, since in this way the stigmas are easier to extract as they are just longer than the closed petals and can be removed all together in one swift movement. At this point they are carefully dried to prevent any fermentation that would alter their quality.
The quality of saffron depends strictly on its territorial origin. The characteristics of our saffron produced on the Florentine hills are to be found in the high concentration of antioxidants present in the stigmas.
Saffron stigmas are a guarantee of quality as it ensures the purity of the spice, so much so that the Associazione Produttori Zafferano delle Colline Fiorentine has regulated its sale only in stigmas, which is to be preferred to saffron powder.
Stigmas must be placed in water or milk before being used in the kitchen, in order to release their pigments and aromatic substances and to ensure the success of the recipe.