The main saffron-growing countries are India, Iran, Spain, Greece and Italy. But there’s also a small saffron crocus producer based in Boutenac-Touvent, only 5 kms from Bel-Air Gites.
Did you know that it was once grown in Saffron Walden in Essex, hence the town’s name?
‘Safran de l’estuaire‘ have been producing saffron in the hillsides overlooking the Gironde estuary for several years. It is the perfect location for growing this exceptional plant.
The ‘crocus sativus’, more commonly called the saffron crocus, is extremely delicate. It is not suitable for intensive cultivation because the flowers have to be hand-picked. It is the stigmas inside the saffron crocus that give the spice it’s deep colour and sweet flavour. These stigmas can only be picked by hand because machines are not delicate enough.
Each saffron crocus produces just 3 stigmas which are hand-picked and dried. It takes 250,000 stigmas to make 500g of saffron, and that’s the reason for it’s expensive price tag. However, you only need to use a small pinch of the spice because it is very strong. Too much and it can taste quite bitter
To ensure you are getting the best quality for your money, look for a deeper colour. Deep red with orange tips is considered to be the best. Inferior saffron can also look slightly frayed and worn. If you’re buying saffron in markets abroad, beware of cheap deals – the real thing is always expensive.
Saffron is mainly harvested to be used as a spice for cooking or flavouring tea. It will keep for several years if stored in an airtight container, in a cool, dark place.
In cooking, it needs a little preparation to draw out the colour and evenly distribute it throughout the dish. Steep a few threads in a little warm water, stock, milk or white wine for about 30 minutes before using. Then add the liquid to the dish, usually towards the end of cooking.
Because saffron is rich in antioxidants that’s why it’s claimed to have so many medicinal benefits. There are a number of common ailments which herbal saffron supplements can help with.
Generally it’s safe to use in small doses and very simple to add to any diet.
When taken correctly saffron has been known to effectively treat mild to moderate depression, asthma and insomnia. As well as arteriosclerosis, which is a hardening of the arteries, and pre-menstrual tension (PMT).
Saffron contains ‘carotenoids’, which are thought to cause toxic and deadly reactions to certain cancer cells. Such as leukaemia, sarcoma, and cancerous carcinoma cells. It can also help improve skin and eye health.