Monday, November 03, 2008

Umbrian saffron

3 Novembre
Buon compleanno Corrado e pappa in cielo.
I just got back from a weekend jaunt in Umbria and got to visit a real contadino who has just added saffron sales to his long list of products he sells from his piece of land along with olive oil, and biological grano duro (hard wheat). If you look around his property, you can pick some juniper berries and make your own gin as his wife does or find some pine nuts or see a beautiful garden full of various types of pomodori and peperoncini.
I didn't think of Umbria as prime saffron territory before, but in fact, Monteleone has a saffron festival in October every year. Ninni is now harvesting from 100-300 crocus flowers every day with each bulb supplying up to 8-9 flowers a year and of course one pair of pistils from each flower. It takes a whole bunch to make even a gram and one gram sells for 20 euros in an unlabelled bag or 30 euros in a vacuum sealed pack or jar. With one gram you can make about 9 family meals of risotto with saffron.
I brought home some hard wheat and tried to use my Kitchenaid as a flour mill and it was defeated, overheating, and refusing to pulverize the grains into flour. At that point, panicked, as I was thinking of transporting another extremely heavy food processor from america in december and using up valuable weight in my luggage, Raffaele suggested I use my coffee grinder and it worked like a charm. My recommendation is to use the grinder and save the food processor for salsa. The kitcheaid, after a call to the customer satisfaction center, came back to life after an hour of cool down, thank goodness. I made bread with the flour and will give a full report tomorrow on the results.
I helped Ninni pick his olives as the trees in this part of Umbria, west of Perugia, are about 2 weeks behind ours, and as my payment, he gave me some of the wheat and some home grown tomatoes of various types. I will try to grow the seeds next year in our garden.
Today, the workers began the work to finish our vineyard with placement of 6 cables between all the poles to support our vines as they grow. This is their last job and shortly we will be putting down biological fertilizer, which costs a sack of money, and then we plan to plant biological beans between the rows to act as a weed preventer and a natural fertilizer as the bean plants put nitrogen back into the soil.
This afternoon I spent pruning back bushes and trees and I was amazed at the thorns on the pirocantha bushes. I kept thinking I would need to call my friend Jemshed and ask if my eyesight would come back after poking myself with these 3 inch long spikes! Instead, knowing what phone calls cost, I put on my old serengeti safety glasses which I never wore in surgery, but are more necessary now (They also are handy at preventing injuries from olive branches). I cut back the bushes which were blocking the view from the infinity pool, so now there is a clear view of the surrounding hills and our vineyard.
The pictures are of my Umbrian host and his crocus flowers with the red pistils (saffron) and his contadino hands placing the product in the dehydrator screen. Finally a view of Monteleone from Montegabbione.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Smart move with goggles! Thorns penetrating the eyeball are not very forgiving.