The processes in the production of saffron.

Gathering.

The gathering of saffron is carried out when the plant blooms, which takes place between the months of October and November. This task can only be carried out by hand, from the early hours of the morning and until midday, preferably before the flowers open. Once the crop has been taken to the harvesters’ dwellings or warehouses, it is spread on esparto carpets or canvas, ready for the next stage in its elaboration.

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“Desbrizne” or peeling the rose

This task consists of separating by hand the red stigma from the rest of the flower, cutting by the style. Good quality saffron should have a style long enough to join the three stigmas, but at the same time it mustn’t be too big when considering the proportions of the whole flower. The different standard qualities depend on the amount of red and yellow parts. The red filaments are one piece of evidence of the good quality. The bigger amount of red filaments, the more active principles the saffron will have.

Roasting the threads

This may be considered the most important stage of all. It consists of drying or roasting the threads that have been separated when peeling the rose.

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The most experienced and patient person is the one who usually carries out this task. Earthenware bowls or dishes are placed on a fireplace with embers and ash, which provide a continuous but not too intense source of heat. Sieves with thin layers of saffron threads are placed on the earthenware dishes. This way all the threads and filaments harvested during the day are slightly “roasted” or dried.

All these tasks will be carried out day in day out until all the roses in the field have been gathered. An estimate of 170,000 roses are needed in order to obtain a kg. of saffron.

Nowadays the different levels of quality of saffron are internationally graduated by the ISO-3632-1 regulations.