Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Taliouine Saffron


Taliouine is a place we had only passed through not stopped at so when the Artist said she wanted to buy saffron we went for the day.
Saffron like those other exotic powders,cocaine, metampthetamine and heroin, is worth more than its weight in gold. Like them it is sold in little baggies measured on electronic scales of devastating accuracy. Like them it is likely to be adulterated the further from the source the supply chain progresses. 
Coalition forces are encouraging it's production in Afghanistan in replacement for opium poppies and it is grown in Spain and Greece but mostly in Iran. However for the last 350 or 500 years depending on which historian you believe Taliouine has been a centre of production. Currently the local growers are organised into the Soukatana co-operative whose website is .http://www.oasisdemezgarne.com/lgen/Boutique/saffron-shop.htm
Saffron takes its name from the Arabic for yellow and as well as being used in cooking it can be used as a striking yellow dye. The effective parts are the stamens of the flower of crocus sativus.Each flower has only 3 stamen and they need to be removed by tweezers within 3 days of harvesting. Harvest is the last week of October and first in November and the flowers need to be picked at dawn and then processed. At this time whole families work 20 hour days;1200 people in the village being supported by the flower.
It is best to buy the saffron as dried stamens as powder or cake (a spanish finish) are more easily adulterated with either cheap tumeric colour compound or marigold leaves although stamens of other crocus may also be used. However it is often used as a powder and to do so heat the threads on a saucer over boiling water to dry them first. Alternatively steep the threads in a little boiling water before adding to a stew. A quarter of a gram is sufficient.
The village has an impressive new building the House of Saffron. It reminded me of the new vast empty centres around Bejing and the great wall in 2007 awaiting the expected hordes of Olympic tourists. There is a small exhibition in English and French, some spectacular views and a large downstairs shop selling mostly saffron but also some saffron products such as soap and body cream. We were pleased to find a particularly useful packaging of boxes of smaller sachets; ideal for small presents but you could buy larger amounts in small jars if you were rich.
On the way back we passed a large herd of 50 -100 camels which we did not stop for and some flying goats. This time the Artist persuaded Beloved to stop for pictures.

View across valley from L'Auberge du Saffron Taliouine

View across valley at Taliouine

View from thr House of Saffron Taliouine

Interior of the House of Saffron Taliouine

Interior of the House of Saffron Taliouine

Packaged saffron and saffron and argan oil soap

A half gram of saffron - enough for 3 or 4 casseroles

Flying goats on the road from Taliouine to Taroudant

Flying goat in closeup

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