A sharp wind shunts clouds across the low and endless skies of La Mancha as Carlos Fernández stoops to pluck the last mauve flowers of the season from the cold earth. Their petals, which stain his index finger and thumb blue, enclose an almost weightless prize whose crimson threads are treasured in Spain and across the world.
But despite the prices his crop fetches, and the weighty comparisons those figures inevitably invite, the life of a saffron grower is not without its trials, travails, and frustrations.
As well as the back-breaking picking and the painstaking sorting, there is the foreign competition, the unpredictable yields, the increasingly evident effects of the climate emergency, and, on this particular day, the infuriating discovery that a gang of thieves with head torches descended on his fields overnight and made off with some of the flowers. And then there are the dreaded words “oro rojo.”
“Calling it ‘red gold’ damages our saffron because it makes it sound like something that’s expensive,” says Fernández, the president of the regulatory council of La Mancha’s Protected Designation of Origin saffron label.
Read more at wired.com