Saffron

The red threads of saffron from the Crocus Sativus Linnaeus are said to be worth more by weight than gold.  I’m not sure of the price of gold now but saffron costs about 500 euros per kilo.  Luckily it takes only a few threads to give a wonderful flavour to paellas or even desserts.  A group of people in Neffiès, including the owners of the village bar, have started to grow saffron crocuses at Les Roches Rouges, on a hill above the vineyards nearby. Each year at harvest time they organise walks through the vines and up to their fields, followed by lunch of paella cooked with their own saffron.  They also sell the saffron – I bought some last year and have used it in paellas throughout the year.

I posted pictures of the crocuses growing in the field last year (the photos have been slightly distorted by their move from blogger to wordpress, I’m afraid).  This year the weather wasn’t so good, as we’ve been suffering, or enjoying, much needed rain for the past two days, so the lunch was held in the village hall rather than out of doors.  It was still a wonderful day and this year we were able to see the flowers being poured onto a long table for a group of people who knew what they’re doing to remove the red threads.

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It’s the sort of work that must be done by hand.  I liked this woman’s colour coordinated saffron coloured jacket and scarf!

And then it was time to serve and eat the paella:

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There were three of these huge pans, for over a hundred people.

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The dessert (which I forgot to photograph) was a poached pear with saffron cream custard and chocolate sauce.  We drank local wines, of course, a white primeur (the new wine, only just ready to drink and made from grapes harvested at the end of the summer, like the better-known Beaujolais nouveau) for the apéritif and a good red with the food.  Local eau de vie was offered with the coffee, but I can’t take anything as strong as that at lunch time!

>Saffron harvest

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One of the saffron fields at Les Roches Rouges where we went to visit the Safran de Neffiès project started by a group of enthusiasts in Neffiès,  including the owners of the village bar:

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and the view back towards the village from the hillside on an unusually misty morning:

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It takes 150 Crocus Sativus Linnaeus flowers to produce 1 gram of saffron, so that’s why it costs 500 euros, or more, per kilo.  The petals are then carefully removed from around the pistils.  You can see pictures of this here.  Most of the flowers had already been picked but the growers had left a couple of rows so that we could see them and help pick them.  A group of a hundred interested people had walked from Neffiès to see the fields and have lunch.

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The red pistils that can be seen in the centre photo above are the important, saffron, part of the flower, although the whole flower is edible.

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After visiting the fields we walked up among vineyards and olive groves to a field higher up, bordered by evergreen Holm oaks, where long tables decorated with crocus flowers were laid out in the shade for our meal of paella made with this local saffron followed by a dessert made of choux pastry filled with saffron cream.

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We were lucky that it was warm and sunny, and it was a beautiful place to eat a delicious lunch, served with excellent Neffiès wine, of course.

One tip from the leaflet about Les Roches Rouges is that saffron should be soaked to release its flavour in warm water, milk or wine for 4 hours at least – I hadn’t realised before that it should be soaked for so long.

Saffron in Afghanistan

I noticed this video on the Guardian website which shows how saffron growing is replacing poppies in one part of Afghanistan.

>An aerial view and a saffron harvest

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Last Sunday was la Journée du Patrimoine, heritage day, when historic buildings are open to the public.  The church tower in the village was open and Lo Jardinièr climbed to the top and took photos of the roofs, a wonderful jumble of terracotta tiles and satellite dishes.

In the garden we harvested half of our saffron crop – there were two crocus flowers open, which we picked because last year we found that they only lasted a day, and two buds which have since opened and which we’ve picked.

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We’re still picking tomatoes, aubergines and a lot of peppers.  I stuffed some of the green peppers, mostly Corno di Toro and Marconi, with rice, raisins, pine nuts, garlic and oregano, then baked them in the oven for about half an hour.  I’ve put some in the freezer, the others we ate straight away with a spicy tomato sauce made with piment d’Espelette.

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And salad leaves again ….

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After a summer of tomato and cucumber salads, delicious though they are, it’s a treat to start picking lettuce leaves again for green salads.  It’s too hot and dry here for lettuces in the summer – they all go to seed by the end of June, by St John’s day, 24 June, everyone says, and it’s true.  We plant seedlings again in September, some we’ve bought and some which other gardeners have given us, and they should keep growing through most of the winter.

 

An autumn market

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After his summer break when he takes his stall to the more lucrative tourist market at Cap d’Agde, the vegetable stallholder was back in the market this morning (in the shade to keep the produce cool, so difficult to photograph, making it all seem much more lively.  We only bought garlic, because we’ve already used the garlic we grew this summer.  It will soon be time to plant some more and we usually plant garlic from this stall.