A Look Into The History Of Italian Saffron

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When you stroll through the markets of some city in the Tuscany region, you can see chefs teaching cooking classes with saffron in every dish; saffron bread and yellow risotto. You can also find saffron dyed textiles of yellow hues. Saffron-dyed candles, creams, soaps; all this shows that people in the region use saffron whenever they can and wherever they can.      

If you Google “buy Italian spices online” and visit an online Italian food store, you will find that Italian saffron powder is a highly-priced spice. It is one of the most expensive spices in the world. This spice comes from a flowering plant crocus (Crocus Sativus). 1 ounce of saffron consists of 14,000 tiny saffron threads. These tiny saffron threads are handpicked from the flower. You can buy this spice in the form of threads or Italian saffron powder.         

The ancient Romans and Greeks have used saffron in perfumes. They used to scatter saffron threads in courts, royal halls, amphitheaters and other public places. Saffron baths were used daily. They used to stir saffron threads into their wines. Saffron was also used as mascara. It was also offered to their deities.

From there, saffron made it to the southern Gaul. Saffron was extensively cultivated in this region until AD 271. However, saffron cultivation became rare in Europe for several centuries after the fall of the Roman empire. 

Moors from North Africa introduced saffron to Spain and parts of southern Italy and France. Saffron cultivation became common in the southern provinces of Castile, Andalucia, Valencia and La Mancha.   

Venice became the commercial center for Italian saffron powder and saffron threads. Its adulteration was heavily punished. This was the time when this spice was worth its weight in gold. Even today it is the world’s most expensive spice. It is now a major product in the Abruzzo region. 

How did this flower of Middle Eastern origin become so popular in Italy? This happened over 450 years ago when a priest named Santucci introduced saffron to his native home after his return from Spain. 

Harvesting saffron is not easy work. It requires great skills to handle the stems without causing any damage. You also have to keep it from getting contaminated from other parts of the plant.     

There are many family-owned farms producing Italian saffron. More than 60% of the Italian saffron comes from the island of Sardinia.      

Italian saffron powder or threads are used as an ingredient in Risotto Milanese and a wide range of other dishes. People in the Marche region use saffron in the fish soup because of its red coloring. Its coloring property also makes it useful in the production of liqueurs and cakes. Its curative powers also help rheumatism, digestion and colds.   

Want To Try Some Italian Saffron Recipes?  

Eggs Stuffed with Saffron 

It is a classic Italian appetizer often served with olives.

Ingredients 

  • Hard boiled eggs: 6
  • Bechamel sauce: ¼ cup
  • Ground saffron for garnish 
  • Saffron: 18 strands 

Bechamel Sauce 

  • Butter: 1 tablespoon 
  • Flour: 1 tablespoon 
  • Milk: 1 cup 
  • Salt: ½ teaspoon 
  • Pinch of nutmeg 

Instructions 

Sauce 

  1. Add butter in a small saucepan and melt it over medium-low heat.           
  2. Add flour and stir until smooth.  
  3. Cook the mixture over medium heat for 5 minutes until it turns a light, golden color. 
  4. Boil milk in a separate saucepan.    
  5. Add milk to the mixture, a little at a time. Whisk until very smooth.     
  6. Now, bring it to a boil.
  7. Stir constantly while cooking for 10 minutes and then remove from the heat. 
  8. Set aside after seasoning with nutmeg and salt.        

Stuffed Eggs 

  • Peel the eggs and cut them in half. 
  • Remove the yolks and mash in a small bowl.     
  • Add saffron to the sauce and mix well. 
  • Stir after adding mashed yolks to completely destroy egg yolks. 
  • Fill egg halves with the sauce. 
  • Add ground saffron to garnish   

Other easy Italian saffron recipes you can try include:

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