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One of the techniques used for the cultivation of this plant is annual cultivation. It consists in taking the tubers from the ground in the summer, at the end of their vegetative cycle, and then repositioning them in autumn in a ground different from the previous one. This technique is more demanding from the point of view of human resources, but offers better quality products, as well as allowing the constant control of the health of the tubers. Because of the considerable labor costs, this technique is practically used only in Italy, while abroad it is preferred to opt for multi-year cultivation, even if the results are of a considerably lower quality. Another great advantage offered by this cultivation method is the control of weeds and the choice of the best tubers, which will then be reused for new cultivation.
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In the large crops of the saffron flower very often opts for multi-year cultivation. In practice the bulb is buried and left in its place for a period that can vary from three to seven years. This technique allows a considerable reduction in labor costs, even if it offers flowers of lower quality and does not allow an annual check on the state of health of the bulbs. The tubers must initially be positioned at a distance greater than that provided for the annual cultivation (about twelve centimeters from each other), so that the new bulbs that will be formed over the years have enough space for their growth. Moreover, this cultivation does not require a large availability of land, since it does not provide for a different positioning of the tubers every year.
The use of saffron flower in the kitchen
The main use of the saffron flower is represented by the food industry and gastronomy. The spice obtained from the stigmas is in fact used to aromatize and give a typical yellowish color to many typical Italian and international dishes. Main ingredient for saffron risotto, a typical dish from Lombardy and all over Northern Italy, and for Valencian paella, the Spanish national dish, saffron is actually a spice widely used throughout the kitchen due to its presence of the aglycon, the main responsible for the bitter taste of the spice. The typical yellowish color is instead given by the a-crocin. Finally, glucose allows the spice to become water-soluble, ie able to dissolve completely in contact with water.
Saffron flower: The saffron plant in medicine
In the past the plant was also used for medicines. Stigmas were attributed with antispasmodic, sedative and pain relief properties. In reality, in more recent times it has been discovered that the plant can cause abortion and that a constant daily quantity of about 20 grams can also be fatal. Other contraindications in case of excessive use are phenomena of nausea, dizziness, numbness and haemorrhage, since saffron decreases the number of platelets and prothrombin present in the body. These contraindications have ended up considerably limiting its use for medicinal uses, even if the spice is particularly rich in vitamins A, B1 and B2, as well as zeaxanthin, which gives it antioxidant properties.