Garzisi Saffron: Gourmet Spices at Home

As a writer for LuxeInACity I review a lot of outstanding restaurants. Weekends spent sampling award-winning menus or dining at the hottest new eatery has become the norm. While this is hardly an assignment to moan about, my only gripe would be that I can’t share the experience with family and friends. That’s why I’ve made it my personal mission to recreate a little five-star flavor in my kitchen at home.

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You need two things to accomplish this: culinary skills and quality ingredients. While a penchant for taking culinary courses wherever I travel has helped me sharpen my skills, there’s no doubt that the little pot of fiery red stems that adorns my spice rack are classed as quality ingredients.

Saffron is worth more per ounce than gold. Its uses can be traced back over 4000 years to the Minoans, who are thought to have first cultivated the spice. Although it has a variety of uses — from acting as a dye to being used as a pain reliever — most famously saffron features as a food flavoring, especially in Mediterranean and Asian cuisine.

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For a spice you’re likely to pay more than $9000 per kilo, quality is everything — something Giulio Garzisi knows well. At his small saffron farm and factory in L’Aquila, central Italy, everything is completed to the ethos “superior quality means preserving the purity of the product whilst following age-old traditions.”

It’s this philosophy that coaxed me from restaurant-hopping in Rome to L’Aquila. Traveling by train, I watched the mountainous landscape slide with one goal in mind: to learn more about the most sought spice in the world.

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It’s an early morning start to join the labors in the saffron fields, so early in fact that the sun has yet to rise. In the cool dawn the saffron flowers are still closed protecting their precious stigmas – what we know as saffron stems – from insects and the elements. For Garzisi, “preserving the purity of the product” means shunning chemicals in favor of nature’s own method of preservation.

I shadow the nimble-fingered labors as they make their way between the rows of bright purple flowers. With practiced movements, they expertly remove the delicate flower and explain how, back at the factory, they’ll painstakingly remove the three red stigmas from its center.

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With a basket overflowing with flowers we leave the field with the early morning sun still creeping into view. Once the final flower is harvested, this field won’t be touched for five years. Garzisi insists on allowing the soil time to regain its full nutrients to ensure the highest quality crop.

At the Garzisi factory a comforting warmth emanates from the embers of an almond, oak and cherry fire. Above this sweet smelling glow the saffron stems are laid out in rows to dry.

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Due the delicate nature of the product, everything is done by hand at Garzisi. It’s this labor-intensive process involved in saffron production that pushes up the price. To produce one kilo of pure saffron it takes 150,000 flowers, 700 square meters of soil and 200 hours of labor.

I left the Garzisi factory with 0.6g of pure saffron stems, costing me €47. The spice isn’t all you get for your money however; the packaging itself is a thing of beauty that you may feel inclined to give pride of place in your kitchen.

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On removing of the lid of the Garzisi branded hexagonal box, the packaging blooms like a flower to reveal a glass jar with the precious ingredients inside. Fold down the sides and place the lid on the bottom and you have an elegant display stand for your spice.

The packaging isn’t just for show, it’s also designed to retain the saffron’s potency right up to the moment you add it to your dish. Once saffron is ground its potency starts to dissipate. For this reason Garzisi saffron is sold whole and the jar’s lid and base detached to form a crusher. To preserve the 100% purity, specially designed tongs allow you to transfer a stem from the jar to the crusher without ever having to touch it.

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Quality ingredients alone don’t make a winning dish but for those with an appreciation for good food, a love of cooking and a desire to impress their guests, it’s hard to go wrong with a jar of Garzisi saffron on hand in your kitchen.

Charlotte Claxton

Charlie is a freelance writer who specialises in travel, luxury and food. Having earned her chops as a staff writer for international travel brands and digital marketing companies, she now writes for freelance clients and runs her own travel blog. Charlie grew up in London and has since lived in Canada and Australia. She currently writes from various cafés, hammocks and beaches as she travels the world, bringing LuxeInACity readers first-hand insight into the best luxury experiences worldwide. Get to know Charlie better at www.charlieclaxtonwrites.com