- Title: SPAIN: Saffron harvest helps recession-hit country
- Date: 2nd November 2010
- Summary: CONSUEGRA, SPAIN (OCTOBER 28, 2010) (REUTERS) CONSUEGRA WINDMILL / TOWN CLOSE UP OF SAFFRON ROSES ON FIELD SAFFRON FIELD WITH WORKERS PICKING UP ROSES CLOSE UP OF SAFFRON ROSE WORKERS ON FIELD FLOWER BUCKET FULL OF FLOWERS FARMER JESUS MORENO PICKING UP ROSES (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) JESUS MORENO, SAYING: "All the people in Consuegra, in the area, have always had a piece of land because it was an extra income for the year and it was mainly people with little money who cultivated it." WORKERS ON FIELD CLOSE UP OF HAND PICKING SAFFRON ROSES UP (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) JESUS MORENO, SAYING: "Twenty years ago it was up at a quite ok price. As the construction boom happened, the price decreased. Saffron markets decreased too because there was plenty of it at that time. the price was not profitable, but the construction was." CLOSE OF A BEE ON SAFFRON ROSE WORKER PICKING UP SAFFRON ROSES CLOSE UP OF HANDS PICKING UP SAFFRON ROSES BUCKET FILLED WITH SAFFRON ROSES WORKERS LEAVING FIELD VARIOUS OF "MONDEROS" SEPARATING STIGMAS FROM FLOWER CLOSE UP OF SEPARATED SAFFRON STIGMAS (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) "MONDERA" DEMETRIA, SAYING "Since I was a child. I was about three years old when I started peeling one little rose, two little roses."
- Embargoed: 17th November 2010 10:55
- Location: Spain
- Country: Spain
- Topics: Industry
- Reuters ID: LVA4OPMHSI53ZF7KJM6ZZV1FS8EG
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: For centuries, saffron has bedecked with purple the Spanish plains where Don Quijote tilted at windmills, and delicately flavoured paellas. It is now helping cash-strapped families get by.
With prices for saffron at an all-time high of 3,000 euros a kilo, and with unemployment also soaring, rural families in Spain are returning to growing the precious flower to supplement their income.
Saffron growing on small plots had lost its appeal for some years. But when recession hit in 2008 and the well-paid building jobs in a construction boom dried up, families in Toledo began planting the precious flower again.
The saffron from this area is renowned for being flexible, with bright red coloured stigmas, a strong aroma and a dry and lasting taste, and has been assessed by experts as first quality saffron.
It is produced, manufactured and packed in Albacete, Toledo, Cuenca and Ciudad Real in La Mancha region.
More than 400,000 stems, from 250,000 flowers, are needed to obtain 1 kilogram of the oldest and most used spice.
Jesus owns a construction company and shares more than 1500 square metres of land in the very heart of La Mancha with his brother -in-law Vicente, a piece of land which is covered in a violet and red cloak for between seven and ten days a year, the only period the spice blossoms daily.
Though it doesn't provide all their income, Jesus and his family drop everything for a week each autumn to painstakingly pick more than a million saffron stems from their tiny plot.
"All the people in Consuegra, in the area, have always had a piece of land because it was an extra income for the year and it was mainly people with little money who cultivated it," he told Reuters.
Plots are generally small family plantations, and no more than two or three people are needed for picking at harvest time.
As recently as 20 years ago, some 60 percent of La Mancha families grew saffron, but many left their plots to work in Spain's construction sector which boomed for more than a decade. The boom turned to bust in late 2007 and threw Spain into a deep recession from which it is still struggling to emerge.
Now the region is studded with unoccupied or unfinished buildings as well as its archetypal windmills, many are turning back to traditional earners like saffron, but it is not a quick fix for money problems.
"Twenty years ago it was up at a quite ok price. As the construction boom happened, the price decreased. Saffron markets decreased too because there was plenty of it at that time, the price was not profitable, but the construction was," Jesus explained.
"La monda" of saffron (the process in which the stigmas are removed from the rest of the flower) is carried out in private houses where all the members of the family and their neighbours get together and spend the whole day telling old stories and anecdotes.
The process is traditionally carried out by women because of their greater dexterity in plucking the fine stigmas from the flower.
Demetria, one of Jesus' neighbour, has been carrying on the tradition since she was a girl, and says the practice is passed on from parents to children.
"Since I was a child. I was about three years old when I started peeling one little rose, two little roses," she said proudly while methodically peeling saffron roses.
"I have three kids and two of them, especially, love this," she added.
When the "mondadores", the workers who patiently separate stigmas from the flowers one by one, have a couple of plates-full, they tip them into a sieve and dry them on an ancient stove.
In the process, the reddish-purple stems turn a blood red and lose 90 percent of their weight, and are now ready for market.
Saffron is widely used in Iranian (Persian), Arab, Central Asian, European, Indian, Turkish, and Cornish cuisines.
Its name comes from the Persian name "safra", which means "yellow", and, traditionally, it has been advocated for stomach pain, digestive problems and even depression.
The spice was introduced in Spain during the Arabic period. Arabic cooking was very rich in herbaceous flavourings and saffron was the most important, used as colouring and seasoning in most of their recipes.
Prized with the Origin Denomination by Regulating Council, the "Saffron from la Mancha" guarantees that the saffron is from the latest harvest, and is offered to the consumer in thread form, never ground in order to avoid any kind of fraud.
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