Switch off completely from the world and just enjoy this surprisingly relaxing activity !
Saffron is known as ‘red gold’ because it’s the most expensive spice in the world. It has many medicinal and culinary properties and is grown in the Pays Bigouden !
A saffron farm in Pays Bigouden
Anne and Sébastien decided to set up their organic saffron farm in Pouldreuzic in 2011. The Bigouden climate is apparently ideal for growing Crocus Sativus, a delicate flower which is harvested during October and November.
First step : harvest
Mid-morning when the sun begins to warm the earth, the crocuses open to reveal their bright red pistils. The flowers only live for 24 hours, so there is no time to lose ! There are ten of us that day, all volunteer harvesters. The flowers are picked by hand with a precise, delicate gesture. The atmosphere is tranquil, almost studious, and in some ways the activity has a relaxing side to it that I never imagined !
The baskets slowly fill up with delicate mauve and bright red flowers. Each picker pays careful attention not to leave any flowers in his or her row.
Removing the pistils
Direction the chalet where the harvest is place on a table. We sit down and using a small pair of tweezers we carefully remove the pistil from each crocus. This is an operation requiring infinite patience as it takes 160 pistils to obtain 1 gram of dried saffron !
The next step is the drying stage. The pistils are oven-dried at low temperature (35 -50°C) and the resulting chemical reaction produces the perfumed spice we all know.
Precision and concentration are key words, but that doesn’t stop us chatting amongst ourselves and with Anne’s mum who has come to lend a hand during the harvest. She tells us about the medicinal properties of saffron and the different ways of using it in cooking. There’s no doubt about it, she certainly whets our appetite !
Now it’s time to taste the saffron ! Anne sells a range of organic food products made from saffron in her shop : honey, vinegar, biscuits, syrup, apple jelly… and little jars of dried saffron, of course ! It can be used as a tea, to flavour a sauce or a stock to make a seafood risotto for example.
Medicinal properties of saffron
As well as its unique, delicate flavour and strong colouring property (it is still traditionally used to dye ceremonial robes in some countries), saffron has numerous medicinal properties such as pain relief (especially for babies’ teething), cholesterol regulation, a natural anti-depressant and stroke prevention. It is also said that taking saffron brings happiness and wisdom. I heartily agree with that, especially when I see the delighted smiles on the faces of my fellow-harvesters, not forgetting my own personal feeling of inner-peace and well-being !