The saffron is an fascinating ancient
flower which has crossed the story of humanity offering itself for thousands of
uses to the most different civilizations of all times. It came probably from Asia
Minor and was used as colouring agent, in cosmetics and gastronomy. It was
known by the Egyptians, mentioned in the Bible and in the Song of
Songs, used by the Greeks, the Romans and in the Middle Ages and spread in
the West by the Arabians.
It's use has come down to us and in Umbria still exist two zones, where
it's cultivation has been developed to an excellent level. One of these zones
is the town Cascia, where the soil, the climate and the environment
allow the delicate plant to grow and develop maintaining whole it's
The saffron which is used for culinary preparations is obtained by the dried
stigma of the violet flowers of the Crocus Sativus, a tiny but very
coloured plant which doesn't grow more than 13-14 centimetres.
The saffron flowers are picked by hand between October and November in the
early morning hours at dawn, when the flowers haven't opened yet, because the
direct sun beams would damage their organoleptic qualities. The same day the
stigma get separated from the flowers and dried toasting them on wood embers at
about 40° centigrade.
The great value of the final product is determined by the very attention which
is necessary during the picking and the separation of the stigma from the
flowers. Moreover, in order to obtain one gram of saffron more than 200 flowers
The use of saffron has found the right
base in the territory's gastronomy for the preparation of traditional dishes
which combine best the ancient flavours with the new tendencies of taste. One
can taste delicious cheeses like saffron pecorino, saffron ricotta and saffron
caciotta, delicious starters like truffle and saffron risotto or the local game
enriched with the fragrance of this wonderful spice.
Recently almost all producers joined in a syndicate, the Associazione dello
Zafferano di Cascia - Zafferano Purissimo dell'Umbria, with the aim to
promote and spread the knowledge about saffron. One of the most prestigious
initiatives is without any doubt the organization of the exhibition market Mostra
Mercato dello Zafferano di Cascia, that takes place towards the end of
October, the period in which the saffron flourishes. During the event one can
taste and buy the saffron and many other local products with which it can be
combined, creating so delicious dainties for refined palates.
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