The Saffron of L'Aquila PDO, whose scientific name is Crocus sativus, is a unique product for its history, environment, cultivation, and processing.
The powder obtained from the saffron stigma drying process is known and used from very ancient times for its high coloring power and intense aroma. Of Middle Eastern origins and very resistant to the cold, the plant was introduced in Sicily by the Arabs and spread then in the peninsula. However, it only flourished in Abruzzi, in the area of L'Aquila, acquiring a very important role in the local economy.
It is traditionally cultivated in Navelli plateau and in Subequana Valley, in the Park Municipalities of Fagnano Alto, Fontecchio, Molina Aterno, Tione degli Abruzzi. It has found here the ideal habitat thanks to the dry and windy climate, very permeable soils (too much humidity would spoil the plant), and the extraordinary skill of the local people to take pistil after pistil by hand (it takes 200 thousand flowers and 500 working hours to obtain one kilo of saffron in threads).
The local production is a top-quality production, although not very rich in quantity.
The bulbs are transplanted in August, the blooming starts in mid-October and lasts about 20 days.
The harvesting takes place by hand, early in the morning, when the corolla is still closed. The cut flowers are gathered in wicker baskets and open with the nails one at the time, separating the stigmas from the style depreciating the product. Once this stage ends, the pistils are laid down in a sieve which is hung over the warm ashes of the fireplace.
Toasting mush be very slow and uniform.
Saffron is sold partly minced and closed in small bags and mainly as it is, in one-gram jars. The quality is the same, but the threads are better because, besides giving the aroma, also decorate the dish.