Saffron: Sicily’s red gold


Saffron is considered “the king of spices”. It is the secret touch that embellishes our cuisine, not only in the risotto alla Milanese, but also in the paella valenciana, it can make a simple tea infusion magical or enrich your favourite cocktail. The dried flower petals of Saffron turn a soup into a highlight. The red gold of saffron gives a unique, delicate taste to Piacentinu ennisi, the Sicilian PDO cheese made from sheep’s milk.

The saffron plantations on the island have a long tradition. The province of Enna has always been a centre of excellence of saffron production, but interest in the spice has increased over the years and now involves an ever-larger number of producers especially in the Nebrodi area.

You can enjoy an exciting experience in Raccuja and take part in the annual saffron harvest. The activity takes place once a year between October and November.

The harvest experience is one not to be missed:

‘You arrive in the field with your eyes still filled with sleep and dreams. Early in the morning the saffron flowers are closed, so the petals protect the stigmas from the heat and the bad weather. It is cold, especially when the sky is muffled and grey. Remnants of darkness hide the waking sun. If it has rained or the frost is still hanging on the grass blades, your fingers will itch a bit. The closer you get, the more you can distinguish the purple colour, which does not look like cyclamen, nor like forget-me-nots. It is something precious and rare. It looks like it is silently waiting to be gently plucked from the ground. Each flower is like a little chest: inside is hidden the treasure, gold as red as lava. With your index finger and thumb you grasp the stem of the first flower and zap! Then you proceed slowly but steadily. It is an extremely careful process, but once you have learned it, you feel as if you are performing a ritual, as if you were on a stage surrounded by trees, mountains and fresh air. So now you are dancing and talking to the flowers … or, at least, don’t be surprised if it really happens’.

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