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    You are in: Home / Community Forums / Gardening, Herbs, Spices and More / ZWT8 ~ Saffron Farm Spain Challenge
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    ZWT8 ~ Saffron Farm Spain Challenge

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    NorthwestGal
    Thu Jul 26, 2012 8:08 am
    Forum Host
    Charmie777 wrote:


    The 'Nommers had been furiously cooking for this short visit to Spain. And furiously eating! icon_redface.gif A vigorous outing was needed to work off the extra poundage gained by too much Paella and Sangria!!

    CJAY suggested we explore a Saffron farm to learn about this seasoning that is so expensive and yet so wonderful! We all shouted a wonderful chorus of "Om Nom Nom!!!" and we were off!



    We ended up in the Aragon region of northeastern Spain on an enormous Saffron farm, with fields of beautiful Crocuses. Mikekey, being our fearless leader, immediately enlisted the help of Rafael Gomez, a local authority, to show us everything to know about Saffron.

    Since saffron is harvested in October, we were unable to partake in this activity, but we did enjoy the gorgeous purple of the crocuses and the wonderful lessons we learned. Elle Firebrand even wove some blossoms into her hair!



    There is no machine that can strip the saffron flowers, just as there is no mechanical way to speed their harvest. Hardworking hands must process about 70,000 flowers to obtain a pound of finished saffron. Hence the spice's astronomical price—roughly $450 a pound wholesale and as much as $4,500 retail for saffron of the highest quality.



    "Holy Schmoley," shouted Random Rachel (she's prone to random outbursts). "That's more than CJAY and Mikekey spend at Sur La Table combined!"

    During the Middle Ages, the use of saffron in cooking spread throughout Europe. Saffron is the defining ingredient in some of the Continent's most celebrated dishes—Spain's paella, the bouillabaisse of Provence, risotto milanese—and is essential to the cuisines of India, Morocco, and Iran. It has also been coveted throughout history as a dye, a perfume, and a medicine.

    JackieOhNo! quickly pulled out her ZWT Tour cookbook (she is our guru, you know!) and looked up some recipes for Paella. She found 13 recipes!! Her favorites are:
    Paella
    Paella on Spaghetti Squash



    Spanish Paella was prepared by the resident chef, Estevan, and we made more “Om Nom Nom” sounds. FLKeysJen declared it the best paella she has ever eaten!

    AlainaF was quick to purchase lots of saffron and use it to make Saffron Butter as gifts for each of us to remember this trip by.



    We enjoyed our outing so much!!! JostLori had us all pose for a group picture for us to remember our excursion by!


    Thank you for participating in this challenge for your team, Charmie777. I hope you enjoyed it.

    I want to go shopping with Mikekey and CJAY. I like their budget!
    Muffin Goddess
    Thu Jul 26, 2012 11:53 am
    Food.com Groupie


    I will be the storyteller for The Herbaceous Curvaceous Honeys

    icon_biggrin.gif
    NorthwestGal
    Thu Jul 26, 2012 1:58 pm
    Forum Host
    Muffin Goddess wrote:


    I will be the storyteller for The Herbaceous Curvaceous Honeys

    icon_biggrin.gif


    I'm glad to see you join this Challenge, Muffin Goddess. I hope you enjoy it. I'll add your name to Page 1 with my next update.
    **Jubes**
    Fri Jul 27, 2012 7:59 am
    Forum Host



    The ZWT8 Tour Guides decided to take a well deserved break, actually just before Zaar World Tour 8 commenced.


    All of our ZWT8 tour had been organised and challenges determined.....we were all ready and well before time ! ! ! !


    ~Leslie~ mentioned that she had always wanted to see Consuegra in Spain during La Fiesta se la Rosa del Azafran (translated this is Rose of Saffron Festival).


    As Susie D is the most amazing organiser and used to whipping us all into shape, she set about organising our trip. I was so excited to be able to finally meet my friends in person and a trip to Spain at the same time too ! Since I have never been outside of Australia before, this was going to be the most amazing holiday. I scrambled to organise my passport in time!





    Consuegra is a small town near Toledo in the La Manch region of Spain. It has a population of around 10,000. Most of the worlds saffron is cultivated in consuegra. La Fiesta de la Rosa del Azafran coincides with the harvest of the saffron crop, being held the last weekend in October. This event highlights the importance of saffron and the traditional culture of the region.


    lazyme decided that we should take a look at the areas famous historic windmills before heading out to one of the saffron farms. She took some of the most amazing photos and plans to share photos of our trip with our friends on Food.com.





    We arrived at the largest saffron farm to find the festival well underway. We arrived just in time to participate in an annual competition being held to see who was the fasted at collecting the saffron. Basically how quickly you detach the stigma from the purple crocus flowers. Who would have guessed that Mommy Diva, NorthwestGal and PaulaG would make it to the finals? Those girls were amazingly fast and were having so much fun!





    We headed out to the fields to help with the flower collection. The fields were beautiful but collecting the flowers was backbreaking work.




    Susie D arranged bike hire for us to cycle back to town to join the festivities being held there. Poor **Jubes** hadn't ridden a bike since she was a child, but Susie D offered loads of encouragement. We felt energised by the bike ride but we were all MIGHTY HUNGRY ! ! !



    Of course, there was plenty of amazing places to dine on the regions specialty dishes. As we all foodies at heart, we spent the night chatting and eating and chatting and eating and.........We ordered rounds of margaritas and laughed about our day and the fun we all had together.





    We had a memorable trip and I can’t wait to see the photos…………. well….....except for a few that may have been taken late that evening.

    I wonder just how many margaritas did we all have ?!?!?!


    Last edited by **Jubes** on Tue Jul 31, 2012 7:22 am, edited 1 time in total
    NorthwestGal
    Fri Jul 27, 2012 10:45 am
    Forum Host
    **Jubes** wrote:



    The ZWT8 Tour Guides decided to take a well deserved break, actually just before Zaar World Tour 8 commenced.


    All of our ZWT8 tour had been organised and challenges determined.....we were all ready and well before time ! ! ! !


    ~Leslie~ mentioned that she had always wanted to see Consuegra in Spain during La Fiesta se la Rosa del Azafran (translated this is Rose of Saffron Festival).


    As Susie D is the most amazing organiser and used to whipping us all into shape, she set about organising our trip. I was so excited to be able to finally meet my friends in person and a trip to Spain at the same time too ! Since I have never been outside of Australia before, this was going to be the most amazing holiday. I scrambled to organise my passport in time!





    Consuegra is a small town near Toledo in the La Manch region of Spain. It has a population of around 10,000. Most of the worlds saffron is cultivated in consuegra. La Fiesta de la Rosa del Azafran coincides with the harvest of the saffron crop, being held the last weekend in October. This event highlights the importance of saffron and the traditional culture of the region.


    lazyme decided that we should take a look at the areas famous historic windmills before heading out to one of the saffron farms. She took some of the most amazing photos and plans to share photos of our trip with our friends on Food.com.





    We arrived at the largest saffron farm to find the festival well underway. We arrived just in time to participate in an annual competition being held to see who was the fasted at collecting the saffron. Basically how quickly you detach the stigma from the purple crocus flowers. Who would have guessed that Mommy Diva, NorthwestGal and PaulaG would make it to the finals? Those girls were amazingly fast and were having so much fun!





    We headed out to the fields to help with the flower collection. The fields were beautiful but collecting the flowers was backbreaking work.




    Susie D arranged bike hire for us to cycle back to town to join the festivities being held there. We felt energised by the bike ride but we were all MIGHTY HUNGRY ! ! !




    Of course, there was plenty of amazing places to dine on the regions specialty dishes. As we all foodies at heart, we spent the night chatting and eating and chatting and eating and.........We ordered rounds of margaritas and laughed about our day and the fun we all had together.





    We had a memorable trip and I can’t wait to see the photos…………. well….....except for a few that may have been taken late that evening.

    I wonder just how many margaritas did we all have ?!?!?!


    I enjoyed your story, Jubes. We al had so much fun, and the margaritas did go down easily later that evening, didn't they. We'll have to steal that phrase .... What happens in Spain, stays in Spain icon_wink.gif
    **Jubes**
    Fri Jul 27, 2012 10:50 am
    Forum Host
    That sure is a relief.....cause I think I had way to many margaritas to remember too much ! icon_lol.gif icon_wink.gif
    Deantini
    Sat Jul 28, 2012 1:31 pm
    Food.com Groupie


    Saffron Farming a la Bistro Babes style

    The Bistro Babes decided to have a fun team building experience. Many options were discussed but they all seemed to end up revolving around the creation of drinks. Maybe it had something to do with the team name, but nevertheless we knew that it would be a bad idea for us to only focus on liquids. So we decided to go to Spain and learn about saffron farming and at the same time enjoy some local Sangria after a hard day’s work.

    Our captain Kim the Dreamgoddess organized the trip with great precision which was not an easy task.

    We arrived on a beautiful day in October and checked in to a local B&B. After unpacking and a shower to freshen up we sat down for our first Sangria on the outside terrazzo overlooking the hills of the saffron farms. An incredible sight to be had - Chelsea (ChelseaW) could not get over the difference between the crocus fields and the potato fields of Idaho.

    The next morning we got up before the crack of dawn and trekked over to the farm where we had agreed that we would be helping for the next 5 days. Marian (Deantini) was wondering out loud why she had had the 3rd Sangria the night before. Picking crocus flowers with your head down in the early morning is just not a great activity combined with Sangria the night before.

    Anyway – the Babes got down to work and went into the crocus rows with big sacks strapped across the chest to collect the flower. The work was gruelling but fun; Sofie (Sofie-a-toast) led the team in songs and trivia to make the time go faster. And so the days went, the Babes got smarter about the Sangria consumption and worked hard on the farm during the day.

    The funniest moment came on the 4th day; the Babes were getting increasingly fit from the hard work. Lesley (K9 Owned) in particular had an issue with her shorts that had gotten too loose without her noticing. She was holding saffron threads worth $1000 while her shorts slowly slid to the ground, and she could not bring herself to let go of the valuable threads and ended up mooning the local farm hands – and the rest of the team. It was great fun to perhaps everybody except for Lesley but she was a great sport. She later on got the price for the most persistent picker that year.

    On our last day we each received a white cloth bag full of saffron as a ‘thank you’ for our help. Nancy (Nancy’s Pantry) and Charlotte (Charlotte J) convinced the owner of our B&B to let them loose in the kitchen to create a stunning meal featuring saffron. Sue (Bayhill) and Cherie (Midwest Maven) were in charge of creating a Sangria bar. The 4 ladies outdid themselves and we enjoyed a superb meal with excellent drinks on the terrazzo on a warm October night in Spain.

    The menu consisted of:

    Saffron Couscous With Herbs
    Seared Scallops With Champagne Saffron Sauce
    Saffron Potatoes
    Saffron Butter
    Crema Catalana
    Fruit Marinated in Sangria

    Sangria
    Killer Sangria
    Pomegranate Sangria
    NorthwestGal
    Sat Jul 28, 2012 7:09 pm
    Forum Host
    Deantini wrote:


    Saffron Farming a la Bistro Babes style

    The Bistro Babes decided to have a fun team building experience. Many options were discussed but they all seemed to end up revolving around the creation of drinks. Maybe it had something to do with the team name, but nevertheless we knew that it would be a bad idea for us to only focus on liquids. So we decided to go to Spain and learn about saffron farming and at the same time enjoy some local Sangria after a hard day’s work.

    Our captain Kim the Dreamgoddess organized the trip with great precision which was not an easy task.

    We arrived on a beautiful day in October and checked in to a local B&B. After unpacking and a shower to freshen up we sat down for our first Sangria on the outside terrazzo overlooking the hills of the saffron farms. An incredible sight to be had - Chelsea (ChelseaW) could not get over the difference between the crocus fields and the potato fields of Idaho.

    The next morning we got up before the crack of dawn and trekked over to the farm where we had agreed that we would be helping for the next 5 days. Marian (Deantini) was wondering out loud why she had had the 3rd Sangria the night before. Picking crocus flowers with your head down in the early morning is just not a great activity combined with Sangria the night before.

    Anyway – the Babes got down to work and went into the crocus rows with big sacks strapped across the chest to collect the flower. The work was gruelling but fun; Sofie (Sofie-a-toast) led the team in songs and trivia to make the time go faster. And so the days went, the Babes got smarter about the Sangria consumption and worked hard on the farm during the day.

    The funniest moment came on the 4th day; the Babes were getting increasingly fit from the hard work. Lesley (K9 Owned) in particular had an issue with her shorts that had gotten too loose without her noticing. She was holding saffron threads worth $1000 while her shorts slowly slid to the ground, and she could not bring herself to let go of the valuable threads and ended up mooning the local farm hands – and the rest of the team. It was great fun to perhaps everybody except for Lesley but she was a great sport. She later on got the price for the most persistent picker that year.

    On our last day we each received a white cloth bag full of saffron as a ‘thank you’ for our help. Nancy (Nancy’s Pantry) and Charlotte (Charlotte J) convinced the owner of our B&B to let them loose in the kitchen to create a stunning meal featuring saffron. Sue (Bayhill) and Cherie (Midwest Maven) were in charge of creating a Sangria bar. The 4 ladies outdid themselves and we enjoyed a superb meal with excellent drinks on the terrazzo on a warm October night in Spain.

    The menu consisted of:

    Saffron Couscous With Herbs
    Seared Scallops With Champagne Saffron Sauce
    Saffron Potatoes
    Saffron Butter
    Crema Catalana
    Fruit Marinated in Sangria

    Sangria
    Killer Sangria
    Pomegranate Sangria


    icon_biggrin.gif I enjoyed your saffron adventure, Deantini. I was afraid I might have to wrap my ribs from laughing so hard about that poor K9, loosing her britches in front of everyone. But at least she didn't drop her saffron!

    I'll mark you on Page 1 as complete. Thank you for participating in this challenge.
    momaphet
    Sun Jul 29, 2012 9:33 pm
    Food.com Groupie


    While sitting around the taverna one Fall evening, the ever adventurous Wild Bunch decided it was time for a field trip.
    Much lively discussion ensued, though hardly anyone remembers it, and soon they found themselves in the wee hours of the morning, all crammed together in a minivan driving along a bumpy road.Katew had volunteered to be the designated driver to their destination, a local saffron farm. As some members of the Wild Bunch had lived up to their name they were feeling pretty hung-over after hitting the sauterne, sangria and spirits quite hard the previous evening.
    To keep the troops awake she spouted off facts on saffron – like that it was first documented in the 7th century BC. There were many groans from the punters in the rear seats but she continued on and told them saffron is more expensive gram for gram than gold and that there are references made over time that it had been used as treatment for over 90 illnesses. momaphet told her if she didn’t stop yammering and making her head ache, kate would be needing cure #91. momaphet was not a morning person, and she needed a latte, this whole needing to get up before dawn so the stigmas wouldn’t wilt before they got there was not her idea of a good time.
    Once they arrieved at the farmKatew’s talk seemed to have inspired each of the Wild Bunch in different ways.
    IngridH had DEFINITELY been sampling too many of the local wines the night before, and while she was not at her best; she was game to try harvesting some saffron, one of her favorite seasonings- especially as Katew seemed to think that it might be a hangover cure. After picking only three flowers Debbie R sat down, ran her hands over the lush purple blooms and said, "Wait. Are we using all of this saffron for food or fine fragrance? I just can’t see eating all of this."

    Maryland Jim (being the Ravens fan that he is) spent his time just admiring the amazing purple color of the saffron flower. He was especially thrilled that the harvesting was being done in the month of October, prime football season for his beloved Ravens.

    Knowing that the ultimate taste comes from thoroughly dried red stigmas,
    KateL had gone straight to work and had painstakingly removed the yellow styles from the stigmas -- otherwise the product would have 30% to 50% dead weight and fetch a much lower price -- she then separated each stigma so that the most moisture could be extracted, producing exquisite taste and extending the shelf life, but all for a premium price for THE WILD BUNCH. Pammyowl, the newbie, wanted to help as much as possible and set out to collect the stigmas of the flowers; though an exhausting task, she mustered up as much enthusiasm as she could, and fell to it.

    gailanng also realized an opportunity was at foot. Considering the rarity of the saffron and its monetary value, she began contemplating a rambunctious plan to collect as much as possible to sell on the black market. One problem…copious amounts of sangria seems to put one in slow motion.

    Having read that eating 10g of saffron can lead to the onset of labor, Smelly was a woman on a mission to harvest! At 34 weeks pregnant, the ability to serve up an eviction notice seemed like a better idea every day! She did, however, promise her team to wait a few more weeks before trying the saffron experiment, mostly to prevent a delivery in the backseat of a car in the Spanish countryside.
    By noon most of the group was tired, achy, and a bit bedraggled. Katew though, was still fresh and perky, so she had gathered up The Bunch, stuffed them back in the minivan and had promised to take them to another taverna if there was no complaining on the way home. Seeing Maryland Jim eyeing her she added, yes there’ll be a game on, and there was,
    and the Ravens won 24-3!
    NorthwestGal
    Mon Jul 30, 2012 1:13 pm
    Forum Host
    momaphet wrote:


    While sitting around the taverna one Fall evening, the ever adventurous Wild Bunch decided it was time for a field trip.
    Much lively discussion ensued, though hardly anyone remembers it, and soon they found themselves in the wee hours of the morning, all crammed together in a minivan driving along a bumpy road.Katew had volunteered to be the designated driver to their destination, a local saffron farm. As some members of the Wild Bunch had lived up to their name they were feeling pretty hung-over after hitting the sauterne, sangria and spirits quite hard the previous evening.
    To keep the troops awake she spouted off facts on saffron – like that it was first documented in the 7th century BC. There were many groans from the punters in the rear seats but she continued on and told them saffron is more expensive gram for gram than gold and that there are references made over time that it had been used as treatment for over 90 illnesses. momaphet told her if she didn’t stop yammering and making her head ache, kate would be needing cure #91. momaphet was not a morning person, and she needed a latte, this whole needing to get up before dawn so the stigmas wouldn’t wilt before they got there was not her idea of a good time.
    Once they arrieved at the farmKatew’s talk seemed to have inspired each of the Wild Bunch in different ways.
    IngridH had DEFINITELY been sampling too many of the local wines the night before, and while she was not at her best; she was game to try harvesting some saffron, one of her favorite seasonings- especially as Katew seemed to think that it might be a hangover cure. After picking only three flowers Debbie R sat down, ran her hands over the lush purple blooms and said, "Wait. Are we using all of this saffron for food or fine fragrance? I just can’t see eating all of this."

    Maryland Jim (being the Ravens fan that he is) spent his time just admiring the amazing purple color of the saffron flower. He was especially thrilled that the harvesting was being done in the month of October, prime football season for his beloved Ravens.

    Knowing that the ultimate taste comes from thoroughly dried red stigmas,
    KateL had gone straight to work and had painstakingly removed the yellow styles from the stigmas -- otherwise the product would have 30% to 50% dead weight and fetch a much lower price -- she then separated each stigma so that the most moisture could be extracted, producing exquisite taste and extending the shelf life, but all for a premium price for THE WILD BUNCH. Pammyowl, the newbie, wanted to help as much as possible and set out to collect the stigmas of the flowers; though an exhausting task, she mustered up as much enthusiasm as she could, and fell to it.

    gailanng also realized an opportunity was at foot. Considering the rarity of the saffron and its monetary value, she began contemplating a rambunctious plan to collect as much as possible to sell on the black market. One problem…copious amounts of sangria seems to put one in slow motion.

    Having read that eating 10g of saffron can lead to the onset of labor, Smelly was a woman on a mission to harvest! At 34 weeks pregnant, the ability to serve up an eviction notice seemed like a better idea every day! She did, however, promise her team to wait a few more weeks before trying the saffron experiment, mostly to prevent a delivery in the backseat of a car in the Spanish countryside.
    By noon most of the group was tired, achy, and a bit bedraggled. Katew though, was still fresh and perky, so she had gathered up The Bunch, stuffed them back in the minivan and had promised to take them to another taverna if there was no complaining on the way home. Seeing Maryland Jim eyeing her she added, yes there’ll be a game on, and there was,
    and the Ravens won 24-3!


    I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your team's saffron adventure, momaphet. I was about worried about smelly though, I'm glad she came out of it unscathed. It would be quite a scene having to deliver a baby in the middle of a saffron/crocus field.

    Woohoo, the Ravens won!
    Mia in Germany
    Tue Jul 31, 2012 6:04 am
    Forum Host


    Spain in Violet

    „Saffron has to be plucked early in the morning, because shortly after sunrise, the flowers already start to wilt,“ explains Rita (Rita~). She's the saffron expert of the Lively Lemon Lovelies who has grown her own saffron for years.
    „Yes,“ says José, the saffron farmer, „Saffron is like a beautiful woman – you have to turn to her at sunrise already.“
    Although botanically saffron belongs to the Iris family, in Spain it is called Rosa del Azafrán, rose of saffron, most arrogant of all flowers.
    We gaze over the earth coloured, seemingly empty fields which stretch to the horizon. Through the misty dawn the mysterious shapes of age old windmills are looming – this is Don Quijote country, and it doesn't need a lunatic wannabe knight to mistake the obscure structures for adversary giants.



    Then, slowly, we witness the grandiose metamorphosis taking place in the vast plain below, visible by the first ray of light in the breaking dawn.



    With hundreds of thousends of crocusses opening their calyces, a violet sea of blossoms starts spreading, displaying their hidden treasure: Three dark red threads, just faintly smelling of sweet pollen, but worth their weight in gold for centuries.
    It's seven o'clock now, and José gets dozens of hemp baskets from the trunk of his car.
    „You manage about 10.000 blossoms per day,“ explains his wife. „For one kilogramm saffron, we need 200.000 blossoms. So, let's see that we get started!“
    Rita, Shannon (Cadillacgirl), Cass (Satyne), Magpie (magpie diner), Karen Elizabeth, Choccie (Chocolatl) and Mia (Mia in Germany) grab their baskets and start plucking.



    First Mate Judy (Buzymomof3) and Captain Nan (PanNan) return to the village Consuegra to help prepare the Fiesta de la rosa del azafrán which is going to take place in the evening.
    While Rita is in saffron heaven, the others soon start to ask themselves how they are going feast all night when their backs already start to break in half one hour after sunrise.
    „French bouillabaisse and Spanish paella are spiced and coloured with saffron,“ Rita tells us happily. „It also has a long history as a remedy. There are even modern studies about possible cancer-preventing and antioxidative properties of it.“
    „Yeah, and in ancient Rome, rich ladies used it as fragrance in hair powder,“ Mia adds in a weak attempt to stay enthusiastic.
    They both get sourly glances by the red-faced, dust-streaked others. „Next time I'm going to bring my little one along for this,“ groans Shannon. „She's closer to the ground than me!“
    „Good point,“ agrees Magpie.
    „Chef Ernesto from the restaurant Las Provincias in Consuegra also makes saffron canneloni with cod, saffron sorbet on red wine jello, pumpkin carpaccio with saffron and saffron ice cream,“ José tries to cheer us up.
    Looking forward to the culinary delights of the forthcoming fiesta makes us forget the jabbing back pain and we even speed up a little.
    Besides Rita, Karen Elizabeth and Choccie turn out to be the quickest pluckers.
    „I definitely can see why this stuff is so expensive,“ says Cass, looking at the contents of her basket. „Imagine, only those tiny threads remain from all these blossoms after plucking!“



    When finally the sun stands too high and the flowers start to wilt, we head back to the village, where Maria-Carmen, José's wife, shows us how to cut the pedicels with a fingernail and then pluck the red threads.



    The less yellow rests of pedicels, the higher the quality.
    „After plucking the threads, they get roasted over a charcoal basin. That reduces the weight but develops the unique flavour,“ explains José.
    While Shannon wants to join the cooking crew, the other Lively Lemon Lovelies work on plucking the saffron threads. Judy, Nan, Rita and Magpie turn out to be the deftest pluckers, so they get designated to represent the Lovelies in the plucking contest during the fiesta.
    And then, finally, it's time to feast!
    Hungry from the day's work, we dig into the wonderful dishes Shannon presents us:
    Chorizo and Chickpea Tapas for a starter, then Sopa De Ajo - Castilian Garlic Soup, Pisto and Sopa De Garbanzos - Chickpea Soup, and for oiling our dusty throats Tinto De Verano.
    While eating, we watch the folk-dancing groups and the introduction of the annual Dulcinea and her maids-of-honour. Then the old Sancho Mill with its original 16th century mechanism gets activated to mill wheat for peace and love.





    Fascinating, but we're here for saffron! Our candidates for the contest get ready.
    So many skilled, experienced pluckers – we're glad that Judy, Nan, Rita and Magpie haven't had as much Tinto De Verano as we others!
    The contest starts. Our eyes are fixed on the hands that are carefully but quickly seperating saffron threads from the blossoms.



    „Go, Lovelies, go!“ cheers Karen Elizabeth, then joins in the chanting: „Ju-dy, Mag-pie, Ri-ta, Naaaan! Go!“
    The time is over – and the winner is … Rita, the saffron queen! No wonder, she's done this for years. But motivated by all the cheers, Judy, Magpie and Nan all three hold the second place! That's something for the professional pluckers who secretly were smiling about the green tourists.
    Late in the night, after much more dancing and drinking, full of Tinto de Verano, good food, and very proud of our winning team, we finish this instructive and exciting day. Through our dreams of a violet Spain, a knight of ill-favoured face rides against the windmills …

    NorthwestGal
    Tue Jul 31, 2012 6:47 am
    Forum Host
    Mia in Germany wrote:


    Spain in Violet

    „Saffron has to be plucked early in the morning, because shortly after sunrise, the flowers already start to wilt,“ explains Rita (Rita~). She's the saffron expert of the Lively Lemon Lovelies who has grown her own saffron for years.
    „Yes,“ says José, the saffron farmer, „Saffron is like a beautiful woman – you have to turn to her at sunrise already.“
    Although botanically saffron belongs to the Iris family, in Spain it is called Rosa del Azafrán, rose of saffron, most arrogant of all flowers.
    We gaze over the earth coloured, seemingly empty fields which stretch to the horizon. Through the misty dawn the mysterious shapes of age old windmills are looming – this is Don Quijote country, and it doesn't need a lunatic wannabe knight to mistake the obscure structures for adversary giants.



    Then, slowly, we witness the grandiose metamorphosis taking place in the vast plain below, visible by the first ray of light in the breaking dawn.



    With hundreds of thousends of crocusses opening their calyces, a violet sea of blossoms starts spreading, displaying their hidden treasure: Three dark red threads, just faintly smelling of sweet pollen, but worth their weight in gold for centuries.
    It's seven o'clock now, and José gets dozens of hemp baskets from the trunk of his car.
    „You manage about 10.000 blossoms per day,“ explains his wife. „For one kilogramm saffron, we need 200.000 blossoms. So, let's see that we get started!“
    Rita, Shannon (Cadillacgirl), Cass (Satyne), Magpie (magpie diner), Karen Elizabeth, Choccie (Chocolatl) and Mia (Mia in Germany) grab their baskets and start plucking.



    First Mate Judy (Buzymomof3) and Captain Nan (PanNan) return to the village Consuegra to help prepare the Fiesta de la rosa del azafrán which is going to take place in the evening.
    While Rita is in saffron heaven, the others soon start to ask themselves how they are going feast all night when their backs already start to break in half one hour after sunrise.
    „French bouillabaisse and Spanish paella are spiced and coloured with saffron,“ Rita tells us happily. „It also has a long history as a remedy. There are even modern studies about possible cancer-preventing and antioxidative properties of it.“
    „Yeah, and in ancient Rome, rich ladies used it as fragrance in hair powder,“ Mia adds in a weak attempt to stay enthusiastic.
    They both get sourly glances by the red-faced, dust-streaked others. „Next time I'm going to bring my little one along for this,“ groans Shannon. „She's closer to the ground than me!“
    „Good point,“ agrees Magpie.
    „Chef Ernesto from the restaurant Las Provincias in Consuegra also makes saffron canneloni with cod, saffron sorbet on red wine jello, pumpkin carpaccio with saffron and saffron ice cream,“ José tries to cheer us up.
    Looking forward to the culinary delights of the forthcoming fiesta makes us forget the jabbing back pain and we even speed up a little.
    Besides Rita, Karen Elizabeth and Choccie turn out to be the quickest pluckers.
    „I definitely can see why this stuff is so expensive,“ says Cass, looking at the contents of her basket. „Imagine, only those tiny threads remain from all these blossoms after plucking!“



    When finally the sun stands too high and the flowers start to wilt, we head back to the village, where Maria-Carmen, José's wife, shows us how to cut the pedicels with a fingernail and then pluck the red threads.



    The less yellow rests of pedicels, the higher the quality.
    „After plucking the threads, they get roasted over a charcoal basin. That reduces the weight but develops the unique flavour,“ explains José.
    While Shannon wants to join the cooking crew, the other Lively Lemon Lovelies work on plucking the saffron threads. Judy, Nan, Rita and Magpie turn out to be the deftest pluckers, so they get designated to represent the Lovelies in the plucking contest during the fiesta.
    And then, finally, it's time to feast!
    Hungry from the day's work, we dig into the wonderful dishes Shannon presents us:
    Chorizo and Chickpea Tapas for a starter, then Sopa De Ajo - Castilian Garlic Soup, Pisto and Sopa De Garbanzos - Chickpea Soup, and for oiling our dusty throats Tinto De Verano.
    While eating, we watch the folk-dancing groups and the introduction of the annual Dulcinea and her maids-of-honour. Then the old Sancho Mill with its original 16th century mechanism gets activated to mill wheat for peace and love.





    Fascinating, but we're here for saffron! Our candidates for the contest get ready.
    So many skilled, experienced pluckers – we're glad that Judy, Nan, Rita and Magpie haven't had as much Tinto De Verano as we others!
    The contest starts. Our eyes are fixed on the hands that are carefully but quickly seperating saffron threads from the blossoms.



    „Go, Lovelies, go!“ cheers Karen Elizabeth, then joins in the chanting: „Ju-dy, Mag-pie, Ri-ta, Naaaan! Go!“
    The time is over – and the winner is … Rita, the saffron queen! No wonder, she's done this for years. But motivated by all the cheers, Judy, Magpie and Nan all three hold the second place! That's something for the professional pluckers who secretly were smiling about the green tourists.
    Late in the night, after much more dancing and drinking, full of Tinto de Verano, good food, and very proud of our winning team, we finish this instructive and exciting day. Through our dreams of a violet Spain, a knight of ill-favoured face rides against the windmills …



    That was a wonderful story, Mia. I really enjoyed reading it.

    Yippee for Rita, the Saffron Queen!
    Mia in Germany
    Tue Jul 31, 2012 6:54 am
    Forum Host
    Weren't we lucky to have a saffron expert in our team?
    I really enjoyed this challenge very much - great idea! Thanks a lot for the fun to the hosties wave.gif
    lauralie41
    Tue Jul 31, 2012 10:23 pm
    Food.com Groupie


    A large percentage of the worlds saffron market is supplied by Spain.The one region of Spain where the very best quality of saffron is produced is La Mancha, an arid, fertile, elevated plateau of central Spain. Its production is regulated and protected by the Origin Denomination "Saffron from la Mancha" to ensure quality control.



    BABY KATO surprised us with beautiful Andalusian horses to ride on our two day trek to the saffron fields.



    After getting off our horses the guides from the inn met us. They were very warm and welcoming folks that made us feel right at home. After we were shown our rooms we immediately were led to the fields.



    While walking the guides explained to us that the harvesting takes place between the end of October-beginning of November. The rose of saffron blooms at dawn and should stay the least possible time in the plant because it withers quickly and the stigmas loose color and aroma. This is why they are gathered between dawn and 10 a.m.then we were asked if we were early risers.

    The next morning we tried to wake up STARRYNEWS and it was much to early for her to be awake. DINER524 stayed behind to make sure she did get up and they both went to help the workers who were removing the stigmas from the flowers. They both looked closely, searching for the three crimson stigmas in the center of each purple blossom. The removal of the stigmas was to be done very carefully as the value of the crop would be diminished for the guides if it wasnt ensured the yellow style, which attaches the stigma to the flower, was also removed from the saffron.



    MOMLUVS6 announced it was time for lunch and asked LAVANDER LYNN to go and get Starrynews and diner524. Our guides told us we were doing a wonderful job and the next step would be roasting The stigmas of saffron have a high level of moisture so it is necessary to dry them for good preservation. The process of roasting the stigmas gives it the definitive aspect: bright red, rigid and without wrinkles.



    When we were finished with lunch COOKINGPOMPOM and LAURALIE41 stayed behind to help clear the table and tidy up. While chatting with the ladies that cooked for the inn a few secrets on using saffron for medicinal purposes were learned by cookingpompom and lauralie41 that they later shared with their friends.

    QUEENDANA went on ahead to observe the roasting process while MORGAINEGEISER went with the guides to see where the saffron is stored. For its perfect preservation, saffron is stored in big wooden trunks lined with metal plates inside protecting it from heat, cold and especially moisture.
    Muffin Goddess
    Tue Jul 31, 2012 10:28 pm
    Food.com Groupie


    As a thank you to the Honeys for a job well done on ZWT, I arranged for us to take a day trip to a Spanish saffron farm before we had to fly to the next region. Everyone was pretty excited about the prospect of a field trip to get us out of the kitchen for a bit, although the excitement waned a little when I told them what time we needed to be at the farm.
    We all hopped into our rented motorcoach and headed off to our destination. Everyone was hoping that they could get some shut-eye on the drive (well, except for our tour guide Jubes, being on the opposite body clock schedule of everyone else on the bus). We made her drive, since she was so awake.

    We had been staying about 4 hours away from the farm that we were headed to, so everyone except for Jubes had a nice nap and was ready to learn about harvesting saffron once we arrived. As we drove up the narrow dirt road to the farm we were visiting, there were beautiful purple crocuses as far as the eye could see to either side of us

    We all hopped out of the motorcoach to meet the owners of the farm who were approaching from the farmhouse to greet us. They were very nice, but they shuffled us into the fields, explaining as we went along that we had to hurry to pick the flowers before the sun fully rose and wilted the precious saffron threads. There were already workers laboring away in the fields, but the farmer was so kind as to tell them to leave a patch untouched so the Honeys would have something to pick.

    We were then divided into two groups: the farmer took me (Muffin Goddess), SC (Studentchef), Jubes, Dorit (Dreamer in Ontario), and Kitty (FloridaNative) to one side of the patch, while the farmer's wife took Kathy (LifeisGood), Kelly (Ma Field), Lynette (breezermom), Sharon (Sharon123) and Sara (iewe) to the other side to start picking. We felt badly that Jubes got stuck driving the whole trip there while we slept, so Kitty suggested to the farmer that maybe we could find her something less strenuous to do than the picking. He stopped picking for a moment, and then his face lit up. "I have the perfect chore for her!". Next thing we knew, Jubes was cheerfully skipping off with a pouch of corn to feed the farmer's ducks and geese.

    Secretly, we were all jealous that Jubes got to play with cute farm critters while we had to do the backbreaking picking job, but we all knew that she had earned it.
    After what seemed like forever, our two picking groups met in the middle of the field. Since we were all so slow and inexperienced at picking, the farmer's wife motioned to a couple of the farmhands to come and pick the areas that we had missed. She then ushered us all out of the field with our baskets of crocuses, and we headed back to the special shed that they used for separating the saffron from the flowers.
    We went inside and took our places at the long table where some women were already seated and laboring, and the farmer's wife then gave us a quick lesson on how to properly remove the saffron. Lynette, Kelly and SC seemed to pick it up the quickest, since they were already stripping the saffron from their harvest before Dorit and I were even finished asking questions about technique. Soon, all nine of us were happily separating the saffron from the blooms in our baskets.

    Sara and Kathy were first fo empty their baskets, and proudly handed their bundles of saffron threads to the farmer's wife before running off to find Jubes.

    The farmer's wife looked at the bundles of saffron and smiled, because she realized that we must've misunderstood her when she was explaining how we DON'T want the yellow styles attached, so she set those two bundles aside and gently explained to those of us who still had flowers in our baskets that the saffron with the yellow part attached is considered lower quality and will not command a good price at the market. The farmer's wife was very gracious about our incorrectly separated saffron, but we didn't want to leave her and her husband with inferior product after they had been so patient with us. To speed things up a bit, Kelly, Lynette, Sharon and SC dumped their remaining blooms into Kitty's, Dorit's and my baskets to continue removing the saffron (correctly this time!), and they started separating the styles from the saffron that we had already separated. By the time we fixed our mistake, we all realized that we hadn't seen Sara, Kathy or Jubes in quite some time (well, that, and we were all getting REALLY hungry).
    We were especially pleased when we stepped outside the separation shed and were hit with the delicious aroma of something cooking. We followed our noses to the farmhouse kitchen, and to our surprise, we found Sara, Kathy and Jubes in the middle of making a big pan of Seafood Paella (Avec Eric). "We got tired of waiting for the rest of you to finish separating, so we decided to search the kitchen and make a meal for everyone".


    The farmer and his wife were so impressed by the meal they made that they gifted us with some tins of their saffron before we left.

    We then said our goodbyes to our lovely hosts, and went on our way, refreshed and ready for the next leg of our tour. wave.gif

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