“Our time here is magic! It’s the only space you have to realize whatever it is that is beautiful, whatever is true, whatever is great, whatever is potential, whatever is rare, whatever is unique in. It’s the only space.” Ben Okri
To glean 1 lb (450 g) of dry saffron requires the harvest of 50,000–75,000 flowers; a kilogram requires 110,000–170,000 flowers. Forty hours of labour are needed to pick 150,000 flowers. Stigmata are dried quickly upon extraction and (preferably) sealed in airtight containers. Saffron prices at wholesale and retail rates range from US$500 to US$5,000 per pound, or US$1,100–11,000/kg. In Western countries, the average retail price in 1974 was $1,000 per pound, or US$2,200 per kilogram. In February 2013, a retail bottle containing 0.06 ounces could be purchased for $16.26 or the equivalent of $4,336 per pound or as little as about $2,000/pound in larger quantities. A pound contains between 70,000 and 200,000 threads. Vivid crimson colouring, slight moistness, elasticity, and lack of broken-off thread debris are all traits of fresh saffron. Wikipedia
For this week’s photo challenge on the subject of RARE, I chose to go with foods that are not so common and that we buy or receive as gifts, occasionally, or that we would all like to have sometimes. My precious loose Saffron in the center photo was a gift from a friend in India and from what I read online, 90% or more of this hard to cultivate spice comes from Iran, Kashmire in India, Spain and a few other places. My ground Saffron is from Spain and is the popular La Mancha PDO variety. That tiny bottle cost a lot and I have to admit that I rarely use it because it is pricey and should be used for special occasion dishes.
“Beauty is one of the rare things which does not lead to doubt of God.” Jean Anouilh
Saffron is not all of the same quality and strength. Strength is related to several factors including the amount of style picked along with the red stigma. Age of the saffron is also a factor. More style included means the saffron is less strong gram for gram, because the colour and flavour are concentrated in the red stigmata. Saffron from Iran, Spain and Kashmir is classified into various grades according to the relative amounts of red stigma and yellow styles it contains. Grades of Iranian saffron are: “sargol” (red stigma tips only, strongest grade), “pushal” or “pushali” (red stigmata plus some yellow style, lower strength), “bunch” saffron (red stigmata plus large amount of yellow style, presented in a tiny bundle like a miniature wheatsheaf) and “konge” (yellow style only, claimed to have aroma but with very little, if any, colouring potential). Grades of Spanish saffron are “coupé” (the strongest grade, like Iranian sargol), “mancha” (like Iranian pushal), and in order of further decreasing strength “rio”, “standard” and “sierra” saffron. The word “mancha” in the Spanish classification can have two meanings: a general grade of saffron or a very high quality Spanish-grown saffron from a specific geographical origin. Real Spanish-grown La Mancha saffron has PDO protected status and this is displayed on the product packaging… Wikipedia
The white eggplant is included because we tend to see more of the purple/aubergine variety. Interestingly enough, Eggplant got its name because the earlier cultivars were white like eggs and so the name stuck. However, nowadays, the purple family have dominated the farm supply and tend to be more popular and familiar. As for heirloom tomatoes, the color range is endless and the shapes and tastes so divine. The colors of the exquisite collection I shared couldn’t be captured in a photograph. They ranged from a pale yellow to purple, deep maroon, a bright orange and some with striations that were equally inviting. What I love about heirloom tomatoes is the distinct boldness of their flavors. They are definitely not run of the mill and because they are grown on different farms, they qualify for unique/rare flavorings. I topped off my photo with a shot of an old cart filled with beautiful flowers. It belongs to one of the local farms I visit, and every time I turn the corner on my way there, that old plowing cart and whatever range of flowers they plant in it are so welcoming. Do you shop at farmer’s markets? Are there rare foods in your kitchen? Do share
This post was inspired by a prompt from WP Daily Post: RARE For this week’s challenge, share a photo of something rare: a family heirloom. A cloudy day in a normally sunny desert. A sad frown on a cheerful kid’s face. Or anything else you think of as scarce and singular. I can’t wait to see what “rare” means to you!
Positive Motivation Tip: Explore the full range of foods and spices around you and discover some rare, new things.
PHOTO CREDITS/ATTRIBUTIONS: All Photos from my personal collection.