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The word "saffron" has a Persian etymology, since it derives from the word "sahafaran" which refers to the yellow color of the spice.
The spice is also known, however, as "Crocus Sativus": the origins of the saffron plant go back to Greece and more specifically to the island of Crete. There are many evidences of the fact that saffron was loved and used already in antiquity: it is depicted in the palace of Knossos, mentioned in the Bible and is the protagonist of some Greek mythological legends which try to explain its origin. One of these legends attributes the birth of saffron to the punishment inflicted by the God Hermes to a beautiful young man named Crocus for falling in love with the nymph Smilace, favorite of the God. As revenge, the young man was transformed into a bulb of saffron.
The spice, in addition to being used in the kitchen for its appreciated organoleptic qualities, was also used for other reasons: the Romans used it, for example, as a coloring agent in cosmetics and painting. It was, however, thanks to Spain and its connections with northern Africa, that the cultivation of saffron spread in Italy. In particular, it is worth mentioning Father Santucci, who imported the spice bulbs into Abruzzo.
Today saffron is widely consumed in Lombardy, as a characteristic ingredient of several typical dishes, such as the famous saffron risotto. It is used in the kitchen thanks to its versatility: it adapts to first courses, desserts and even liqueurs. In addition, it is a plant compatible with the Lombard climate, tending to rainy winters and dry summers.
Despite this, the spice has not been cultivated in Lombardy and in particular in Oltrepò Pavese for a long time: only recently it has been attempting to promote its value with a vision projected towards sustainability. In Oltrepò Pavese there are several dishes that require the contribution of saffron and offer an experience made of traditional and ethnic aromas and flavors. If trying them is on your wish list, oltrepoAdvisor can help you find the right restaurant!