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Saffron: the gold of Navelli

Saffron - Crocus Sativus of the Iridaceae family - is a plant about 15 cm tall with pinkish purple flowers and scarlet stigmas used for medicinal, aromatic and coloring qualities in culinary, cosmetics, liquor and groceries. He is remembered in an Egyptian papyrus of the XVI century a.c., Homer remembers him in the Iliad for his perfume and Hippocrates proposes him to cure rheumatism and gout. The saffron that is grown in the Aquila area - Piana di Navelli - distinguishes itself agronomically and merchandise from that produced in other areas of Italy and in other countries of the world.

The soil should be prepared starting from the month of October by plowing the fields destined to the cultivation of saffron and fertilizing them with mature manure. After plowing the soil should be rested and periodically milled.

Around mid-August the bulbs are quarried from the ground with the use of a hoe and selected.

Always around mid-August the ground is divided into flowerbeds, the flowerbeds are prepared by opening with a special pointed hoe, four furrows parallel to 2 to 2, 10-15 cm apart. The bulbs are aligned next to each other with the tip pointing upwards. Subsequently the bulbs are covered with the earth coming from the following furrow. Flowering occurs in autumn, about 40 days after planting and is prolonged for three weeks (from mid-October to 10 November).

The harvest of the flower is manual, as well as all the other stages of cultivation, and is carried out by tightening the flower between thumb and forefinger of a hand and cut with the nail. The flowers are picked early in the morning, with flowers still closed in tubules, around six o'clock, and continue until the flowers begin to open to receive the sun's rays.

In the same morning begins the peeling phase, that is the opening the flower and separating the stigmas from the other parts of the flower. The stigmas are placed in a sieve well laid out and left to dry over the ember oak tree, about 20 cm away.

When the lower part is toasted, the stigmas turn over to have a uniform drying.

Toasting takes 15-20 minutes. The drying is right when the stigma pressed between the fingers does not shatter and maintains a certain elasticity. With the drying on the grill the saffron preserves the purple red color, fragrance and aroma.

In addition to the Milanese risotto you can also prepare tasty dishes: ricotta with saffron, soups, desserts, gnocchi, liqueurs etc .... everyone can do what the imagination suggests.