Saffron has been known since the earliest times: Omero, Virgilio, Plinio and Ovidio mention it in their works, boasting of their virtues in culinary art and colouring, to dye cloths. At the ancient Asian peoples it was a common ingredient in cooking various dishes. It was also used to prepare mixtures to burn during religious ceremonies.
This plant, of the iridous family, originates from the East.
The name comes from Arabic za'-farán 'and Persian' zaa-fran '.
From Asia, cultivation spread to northern Africa, and later to Spain. We do not know the exact date that saffron from Spain was introduced in Italy, but we know for sure who imported the bulbs in our country: the Dominican father Santucci that lived in Navelli (Abruzzo), a great agricultural enthusiast who, under the reign of Philip II of Spain, was a member of the Inquisition court. Father Santucci fell in love with the aromatic plant, studied the nature of the soil in which he could prosper, so he decided to cultivate it. The results were excellent and Father Santucci got a product of even superior quality to Spanish, which is already well known.
From Navelli the culture extended to L’Aquila: a profitable trade (with Venice, Milan, Marseilles, Basel) was established, from which also the government had considerable annuities. Cultivations propagate in the uptight valley of Sulmona where a new variety, 'Sulmonensis', was established. The highest point of production in the Abruzzo area was reached in 1840 with a quantity of 4000 quintals.
Today, only a few dozen quintals are produced. In Italy other areas cultivated with saffron are found in Sardinia, Calabria, Puglia, Sicily (a country on the slopes of Etna is called Zafferana) and in Tuscany. The flowers, which appear almost at the same time as the leaves, have a sting 2-3 cm long: this is the most interesting part (economically speaking) because the drug is obtained from them. The Crocus loves loose, fertile, rather fresh soil; in fact it resists very well in the cold and, in Aquila, thrives at altitudes of 600-700 meters. Harvest begins when the flowers begin to fall, towards the middle or end of October, and last for twenty to thirty days. Flowers should be harvested early in the morning (in fact with the sun they open easily, and this by manipulation causes the deterioration of stigmas) and put themselves in the baskets.
ZAFFERAN VEGETATIC CYCLEBLOOM (October-November): Flowering usually takes place between October and November, depending on the climatic conditions of the area. This takes from 15 to 20 days. Flowers are harvested according to county’s customs: at sunrise, before blooming (as in Spain) or around noon, when flower has just blossomed (as in Greece or in Italy).
GROWTH (December-April): Vegetative growth starts right after flowering. Small sprouts transform into twigs that develop thanks to the photosynthetic activity and the supply of reserves by the mother bulb. The small sprouts are transformed into twigs that develop thanks to the photosynthetic activity and the supply of reserves by the mother bulb. The latter is dry to leave room for the new bulb. Between January and February, all sprouts, whether or not blooming, produce leaves of varying sizes between 40 and 60 cm.
MATURITY PHASE (April-June): It’s the moment when the cormor reaches the definitive aspect and dimension. Around April, when the temperature during the day is higher and the soil gets warm and dry, the roots and leaves of the bulbous mother die and detach. This is the time when the stigmas reach the definitive aspect and dimension. Around April, when the temperature during the day is higher and the soil gets warm and dry, the roots and leaves of the bulbous mother die and detach.
RESTING PHASE (July-August): Resting phase is the perfect time to rejuvenate cultivation. In fact, it is now possible to clean and replant the corms in other soil plots that have not been cultivated for saffron for at least eight years. In Spain, crop rotation takes place every four years, while in Italy every five or six years.
ACTIVATION PHASE (August-October): The corms resume its activity and begin to squander. The flowers and leaves grow in length within the katafilli. Sprouts grow considerably longitudinally by abandoning the leaves that protect them and reach the surface of the soil.