Michelle wrote the following article. Sue thought it would be a nice place to visit in autumn, combined with our usual meeting :
"The first ‘Fete de la Safran’ has just taken place in Sillans la Cascade in the Var. The cultivation of saffron needs hot and dry weather in summer and cold in winter. The land must also be dry, calcareous, flat and without trees. Dolmetta Yannick started this enterprise in August 2009 on 1 200 square metres in the commune of Sillans la Cascade.
The bulbs of crocus sativus are grown using traditional methods.
In May the leaves turn yellow and start to dry out, then the bulbs lie dormant until September when new leaves start growing followed by the purple flowers in mid-October.
The harvest is done entirely by hand from October to December. The delicate extraction of the stamens is done in the evening following the early morning picking of the flowers.
The stamens are then placed on boards to dry out for 4 days in a room which is kept at a constant temperature of 25c. After this they are placed in glass pots in a darkened room for one month to mature. The stamens are then packaged ready for use.
More than 85 000 flowers are needed to obtain just one kilo of saffron.
The saffron from Sillans is very pungent therefore only a few strands are needed and to get the best out of the saffron it should be crushed slightly before soaking in tepid water for a minimum of 10 minutes before use."