Saffron from La Mancha
- Castile-La Mancha
Saffron is a deeply rooted condiment, both economically and culturally, in Castile-La Mancha. It should not be considered just another agricultural product, rather part of the historic and cultural patrimony of the region that must be protected and preserved. It has enjoyed a Protected Denomination of Origin since 17 March 2001.
Originally from Central Asia, cultivation of this plant was introduced to the Peninsula by the Arabs, very knowledgeable about spices, who made it a condiment that was monopolised by the Al Andalus bourgeoisie. Cultivation has been maintained ever since its arrival to the region of La Mancha. It must be noted the special care required in its cultivation, harvesting (done by hand) and pruning of the flower to obtain this prized condiment. Saffron is obtained from the dried stigmas of the saffron crocus: Crocus sativus. It is used as a condiment, providing dishes with a characteristic orange colour and slightly bitter taste, as well as an exotic aroma. Saffron from La Mancha is different from others because of the red stigmas that extend outside of the flower and because their stems are short. Saffron from La Mancha under the Denomination of Origin must always be saffron from the current harvest, since it loses quality over the years, and must be sold in strands only, never ground. The strands are flexible and resistant, with bright red stigmas.
- Harvesting of the saffron crocus begins in the middle of October. The stigmas are dried and sold throughout the year. The package should remain closed, in a cool, dry place to maintain the qualities of this condiment.
- The areas protected under the Saffron from La Mancha Denomination of Origin include the towns in the provinces of Toledo, Cuenca, Ciudad Real and Albacete in Castile-La Mancha.