In Sardinia on the trail of saffron, the world’s oldest aphrodisiac

It’s the world’s oldest aphrodisiac. It’s good for the heart and digestion. It’s a natural antidepressant which awakens drowsy senses. A medicine for the body and soul (it is used in more than 40 therapeutic applications in medicine).

Sardinian Saffron is the ancient and modern quintessential flavour of a coastal and inland region charged with emotions and unique flavours. Like this precious fire red plant produced in a triangle formed by the municipalities of San Gavino Monreale, Turri and Villanovafranca, in the province of Southern Sardinia. It takes one hundred and fifty flowers, strictly hand-picked, to produce a single gram of dry saffron. It’s picked in autumn, in the early hours of the day when its flowers are still closed, and the whole community gets involved. They are placed inside baskets, then meticulous and a delicate work begins: the petals are opened with both hands and the stigmas are separated. They are then moistened with lightly oil-greased fingers and placed to dry in the sun or beside the fireplace.

This saffron is more than just a must-have dressing in traditional Sardinian recipes; information on this spice goes back to the I century A.D., thanks to a funerary inscription dating to the Romans which you will find in the Grotta della Vipera (Viper’s Cave) in Cagliari and which recites as follows: “From your ashes, Pomptilla, violets and lilies flourish and may you bloom again in the petals of the rose, of the fragrant crocus, of the eternal amaranth”.

This spice can be stored, even for longer than one year, in glass jars away from sunlight; it should be purchased as stigmas and not in powder form, to keep the fragrance and, above all, the essence intact which enhances the traditional Sardinian dishes  you will find here. The culingionis recipe is one to be tried at home and, naturally, in certified Ospitalità Italiana Sardinian restaurants .

Before choosing Sardinia as your next holiday destination, remember to check out our travelogue in detail!