Farming Company

From time immemorial the "Antica Azienda Agricola Peltuinum" has been the keeper of the secrets of the production of L'Aquila Saffron which are handed down from generation to generation together with a love for the land and for good natural products.
Our L'Aquila Saffron, in 5 gram and 1 gram packets, is packaged in stigmas - not ground - as a further guarantee of the quality which comes from the certainty of the origin of the stigmas which, in this way, cannot be mixed with others of inferior quality.
The saffron produced by the "Antica Azienda Agricola Peltuinum" is distributed around the world by the producers themselves and sold only in qualified shops and delicatessens.font>

 
 

The Azienda has its seat and laboratory in the family home built in the 18th century in the historical centre of Prata D'Ansidonia. The village is situated on the Piana di Navelli, 24 kilometres from the City of L'Aquila in the direction of Pescara and its economy has always been based on agriculture. In the territory of the Municipality of Prata D'Ansidonia there is an archaeological site called Peltuinum, which is the historical symbol of the area, and which, in 300 B.C., was an important Roman prefecture strategically situated on the Claudia Nova road, corresponding to the later "tratturo" (sheep track).

 

Its importance is evident from the imposing public area in which the ruins of the theatre and of the Corinthian temple dedicated to the cult of Apollo still remain. The "tratturo" was the compulsory road for the seasonal migration of shepherds and their herds to reach the pasturelands on the plains in autumn and vice versa to reach the green pastures of the Gran Sasso mountain in spring. This gave rise to the phenomenon called "transumanza" (transhumance) which so positively influenced the culture and the economy of the territories it crossed, bringing them to life. After Peltuinum was destroyed by the Barbarians, and probably also by a terrible earthquake, it was called Civita Sidonia, later changed to Ansidonia, from the name of a certain Sidonia to whom the land and remaining ruins were donated. In a census in 1508 it was called Villa Pratae for the first time.

 
 
 
In the 12th century Benedictine monks built the church of S. Paolo di Tarso next to the ancient ruins. The present-day Prata D'Ansidonia became a village when the people decided to live near the fields they cultivated. The village belonged to the Counts of Manoppello and the Orsini familyIn the 12th century Benedictine monks built the church of S. Paolo di Tarso next to the ancient ruins. The present-day Prata D'Ansidonia became a village when the people decided to live near the fields they cultivated. The village belonged to the Counts of Manoppello and the Orsini family
If saffron had been a spontaneous plant it could not have grown naturally in the area of L'Aquila because of the particularly harsh climate. But it is just this climate, together with the soil and man's ingenuity, which make the organoleptic characteristics of L'Aquila Saffron unique.
In order to protect the quality of the saffron and its organoleptic characteristics the "Azienda Agricola Peltuinum" has never had objectives which were merely commercial or based on quantity yield, but has always been committed to respect of the traditional method of production in all its stages, from the tilling of the soil to the drying of the stigmas.
The stages in the production cycle of L'Aquila Saffron carried out by the "Azienda Agricola Peltuinum" are:

  • Preparation of the soil and fertilization;
  • Gathering of the bulbs;
  • Preparation of the seed beds;
  • Planting of the corms ( bulbs);
  • Checking for infestation;
  • Blooming and harvest;
  • Desiccation and preservation of the stigmas.

The ground of the Piana di Navelli is mainly of a medium blend with a loamy-humus structure, which assures good water retention, while the high content of sand makes it loose and airy. It is quite calcareous and has a good proportion of potassium and of organic matter while the phosphate content is quite low. In other words it is quite suitable for growing bulbs.
The soil is prepared from October onwards, ploughing the fields meant for the cultivation of the saffron and fertilizing them with well-matured manure. After the ploughing the land is left to rest.
Around the middle of August the bulbs, or corms, are dug from the ground using a hoe. The same day, or a few days later, the outer tunics of the bulbs are cleaned away (2-3 layers), leaving only the innermost layer, and sorted before being replanted. Any bulbs which have cuts on them, are rotten or smaller than 2.5cms are eliminated.
The smaller bulbs, called "mezzanelle" can be planted in nursery beds to grow to the right size for the following year. At the same time the ground is divided into beds which are prepared using a special ridging hoe to dig four parallel furrows, 2 by 2, 10-15 cms apart.
The corms are lined up one next to the other with the apex upwards. Then the corms are covered with the soil from the next furrow. The two or four rows that are formed are called a "rasa" (patch) (usually 50 metres long).
The flowers bloom in autumn, about 40 days after being planted, for three weeks (from mid-October to 10th November).

 
The harvest is manual, as are all the other stages of the cultivation, and is carried out by gripping the flower between the thumb and the forefinger and nipping it off with the nails. The flowers are picked early in the morning, while they are still closed in a tubule, from about six o'clock until the flowers start opening to receive the rays of the sun. In this state, picking the flowers is quicker and working on them during the next stage, the separation, is easier. It is also a tradition to pick the closed flowers as the stigmas of the open flowers are considered inferior. The cut flowers are gathered in wicker baskets to avoid them being squashed. The baskets are then taken under cover and emptied onto wooden tables. The same morning the separation stage starts - the flowers are opened and the stigmas plucked out. The stigmas are laid out on a sieve and put to dry at a height of about 20 cms over glowing embers of oak wood.
When the one side is toasted the stigmas are turned over so that they dry uniformly. The toasting lasts 15-20 minutes. The desiccation is right when the stigmas pressed between the fingers do not break but remain fairly pliant. By drying it over charcoal embers the saffron retains its scarlet colour, its fragrance and aroma. During desiccation the stigmas lose 4/5 of their weight: from 500 grams of fresh stigmas 100 grams of dried ones are obtained. The final product retains 5-20% of its humidity.
Because saffron in filaments or powder form is extremely hygroscopic in damp environments it is highly susceptible to fermentation resulting in a change in colour and an unpleasant odour. It should therefore be stored in a well sealed dark glass container or in canvas bags stored in a dry place..

 
 
 
The mere cultivation of saffron does not guarantee a good harvest. There is a proverb in the Piana di Navelli which says: "One year saffron makes you rich and one year it impoverishes you". In fact, frost during harvesting time, an invasion of mice, visits from wild boars, lack of rain in autumn, not to mention diseases, can all severely compromise the harvest and ruin the bulbs for the following year's sowing.
About 75 kilos of fresh flowers yield one kilo of fresh stigmas.