Monday, May 11, 2015

Moroccan Saffron - As precious as gold dust

Back in 2011 Saida Mellouki and Vincent Lieron cultivated the first Crocus sativus in the village of Serghina. This area in the Middle Eastern Atlas (Province of Fez-Boulemane) located at 1500 m altitude is now saffron territory, producing the highest grade of saffron - a product as precious as gold

Moroccan Saffron - As precious as gold dust

The mauve flower of the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus) is a precious commodity. The tiny threads of the stigmas are the saffron

The 2014 autumn harvest in Morocco was another good crop and Saida Mellouki produced kilos of this precious spice. Much of the saffron is sold into Europe, but thankfully, some is available in Fez.

Painstaking harvest of Sergina saffron 2014

Taliouine, between Ouarzazate and Agadir, is Morocco's capital of saffron and in ancient times women collect the stigma from each flower - a long and painstaking process - from the wild flowers growing on the mountainside. In more recent times, prior to the 1960s, the Jews of Taliouine helped finance saffron production and trade.

These days there are several hundred hectares of flowers grown on light chalky hillsides at an altitude of between 1200 and 2000 metres (4000 - 6500 feet). Each September the bulbs are planted and come into flower towards the end of October when the harvesting takes place. Harvesting is no easy job, the delicate procedure taking between fifteen and twenty days and only during the early hours of the morning before the flower heads open to the sun.

100,000 flowers are needed to produce a single kilogram of saffron

The stigmas are carefully removed, dried and stored in waterproof sacks, well away from direct light in order to preserve the quality and flavour. It is easy to understand the price of saffron once you realise that it takes on average 100,000 flowers to produce a single kilogram of saffron.

Good saffron is readily available in Moroccan souks, but always buy the whole threads rather than powdered saffron which is quick to lose its flavour. The Serghina saffron comes in the distinctive small jars which are well sealed to preserve the saffron flavour.

For more information about saffron contact:
Farm Tafraout town Serghina
33250 Boulemane, Morocco

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