Saffron, the spice of Abruzzo

The cultivations of this plant goes back to very ancient times

If one thinks about spices, thought immediately run to exotic places such as India, Bangladesh or Japan. But there is a spice that is 100% Italian and from Abruzzo and it grows abundantly in the heart of Italy: it is saffron.

The cultivations of this plant goes back to very ancient times. it is said to have been prolific in these lands at the time of Frederic II.

It is famous worldwide for its properties and its genuineness. This spice from Abruzzo was very sought after in the 16th and 17th centuries not only in Italy but in France, Germany and Austria too. It is said that the nobleman Jobst Findenken of Nuremberg would personally come to L’Aquila to buy saffron in great quantities and that he would then “cut” it with poor quality saffron. After being discovered he was arrested and burnt alive together with his load.

Today, it is used in the kitchen to give taste and colour to dishes – we Italians use it particularly in risottos. But one time it was also used for its antispasmodic properties. In reality, the benefits of saffron are in the large amount of carotenoids that help fight free radicals and in its marvellous colour.

But the Abruzzo saffron isn’t like all the others. Now it is only grown in small areas around Navelli thanks to the patient and determined hands of a few farmers. Its characteristics make its taste an almost oneiric experience. Its taste is full of all the time it takes to pick it by hand. The pistil is left whole, the aftertaste is sweet because it is toasted rigorously on almond wood cinders. The red-orange colour comes from the drying process.

The real difference is given by the manual processes. Hands caress the bulbs first, then the flowers and lastly they pick them and sift them, dry them and bring a product to our tables that is ten times better than other kinds of saffron on the market. So much so that it was awarded the DOP brand.
It is a long job that requires great patience the one that the men from Abruzzo cultivate this rare and precious production. A job that lasts a whole year from when the bulbs are planted to the harvest.

If you find yourself in this area, you will certainly taste some recipes with this saffron, like the traditional cannerozzetti with saffron, a fresh home made pasta, sautéed in the pan with cheek lard, ricotta, pepper and our spice of course. Saffron liquor is also a traditional recipe. It is made with some pistils of the spice, alcohol, aromatic herbs and sugar.

Inside the Gran Sasso Park there are various restaurants that have chosen to use the 0km saffron where you will be able to taste traditional or innovative recipes with the Abruzzo saffron, directly from the producer to the consumer. Of course, our restaurant, ‘La Locanda sotto gli Archi’ will welcome you to surprise you with its dishes that will know how to satisfy your palates and your eyes…