A gorgeously sunny morning seemed an auspicious start for the first harvest of the autumn saffron crocuses in the sheltered fields of the southern alpine village of Venanson. A small field full of the bright purple flowers was carefully harvested. The flowers would grow back in two to three days allowing for four or five harvests during the season.
The golden stamen would be removed and dried before being packaged and sold at 35 euros a gram – almost literally worth its weight in gold. Ready powdered and cheap saffron is often bulked up with turmeric.
Saffron has an exotic and aromatic character, as well as a delicious golden glow, which cannot be replaced by any other spice and as such it is an important ingredient in many dishes such as Provencal bouillabaise, Spanish paella, and Swedish saffron buns.
It also can be found in drinks, such as the Roman drink written about by Apicius and in Indian sherbets.