The Arabs brought the spice ‘az-zafaran’ (now know as Azafrán in Spanish, Saffron in English) to Spain over a thousand years ago.
Today over 70 % of the world’s saffron production is grown on the high Castilia (Castilla in Spanish) plateu. The crocus flowers open up in the dark and the red light of dawn shines on a purple carpet, the ‘manto’ — crocus sativus flowers, of which saffron is extracted.
It is every October that the miracle happens and all saffron is harvested within a period of 10 days. Farmers pluck away in the heat using the gathered strength of their backs picking up the flowers with their index fingers and thumbs, a delicate maneuver.
There is an art to the classification of saffron — a row of women sit along a table and separate the reddish stigmas with a practiced skill, moving as fast as lightning. If you get the chance, it’s a sight not to miss.
It takes about 200 crocus flowers to obtain a single gram of saffron, it takes work and skill — the average harvest obtained by a family firm is around 8 Castilian (Castilla) pounds, equivalent to 460 grams. Back in the day this precious and delicate spice was accepted as currency. If you have a keen interest in northern Spain, we suggest you visit Castilla de La Mancha, where crocus flowers saffron harvest bring the sleepy and dazzling white villages to life with the color purple.