Friday, October 28, 2011

The Purple Gold of La Mancha -

La Mancha is the Spanish heartland. Sprawling over a high plateau between Madrid and the Mediterranean, it is the birthplace of Manchego cheese and Pedro Almodóvar, and the legendary stomping-ground of Don Quixote himself.

Azafran de Minaya

Harvesting the saffron crocus in Minaya, Spain

Life has a harsh edge here. The weather is more extreme than elsewhere in Spain, and the villages have a parched, roughened look. But there is gold in La Mancha's fields—or rather, purple gold—in the form of a plant called Crocus sativus, the saffron crocus. If handled correctly, this humble plant, after surviving La Mancha's icy winters and broiling summers, is responsible for what many believe is the very best example of saffron, the world's most expensive, most elusive spice.

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