The revival of saffron growing in le Grand Pressigny

Saffron comes back to South Touraine

Saffron flowers

James Gassiot started his “safrannière” in le Grand Pressigny after he received his first saffron corms from Paul Meriguet in 2006. Paul Meriguet was the driving force behind the revival of saffron growing in South Touraine and had re-established the old saffron fair on the third Saturday in February in Preuilly sur Claise.

The corms are planted from mid July to mid September and flower over a four week period in October/November. Each corm flowers only once and is replaced by several daughter corms above the old corm.

The corms produce between one and three flowers with striped violet petals enclosing three bright yellow stamens and, most importantly, the spice: three vivid scarlet, threadlike stigmas about 3 centimeters long.

Plucking the threads

The flowers must be collected by hand after the dew has passed so that the flowers are dry. The petals are spread out and the stigmas are nipped off with great care just above the style.

The piles of saffron threads are dried, losing 80% of their weight to preserve them.

120,000 to 150,000 flowers, about 300 to 500 hours of work (8-10 seconds per flower) are needed for 1 kg of saffron.

The saframobile

Taking things easily

To speed up the back-breaking process of picking the new flowers every morning, James Gassiot has laid rails between the rows of saffron. Casters added to an old school chair converted it into a “saframobile” on while he can sit at ease while gliding up and down the rows, picking the flowers.

This retired master carpenter, never stops dreaming up ways of makes chores easier to bear.

Open Day

Every year he holds an open day during the season, demonstrating flower picking and the separation of the threads


Saffron can be kept several years in the dark and the dry


4-5 threads per portion for savoury dishes
2-3 threads per portion for sweet dishes
1 gram = about 450 threads


Steep the saffron in water, milk, cream, stock, wine, spirits or a cordial, depending on the dish being cooked.

Leave it to stand and add the infusion to the dish at the end of cooking. Overcooking destroys the aromatic compounds.

The threads are perfectly edible and add a colourful touch if they are left in the dish.

Savoury dishes

  • Saffron omelette (steep the saffron in milk)
  • Mussels, scallops, fish (steep the saffron in wine or stock)
  • Light meats (rabbit, lamb, chicken)
  • Risotto, paella
  • Vegetables: leeks, celery, asparagus, carrot, courgettes, onions

Sweet dishes

  • Baked apples, pears, grapefruit
  • Custards, jams, cordials
  • Rice pudding, pancakes, sponges

Click the pictures to show them full size

The reluctant English valet

The Alien

The music is the Chopin Winter Wind Etude Op 25 No11 played by Robert Finley.