Armenia meets Switzerland – the story of Sari-Saffron

The story of Sari Safran begins in Moscow. There Anush and Urs met – they from Armenia, he from Switzerland, she businesswoman, he photographer. That was in 1997. They get married, start a family. They have lived in Switzerland since 2008. In the summer, there we go to Armenia, to Anush’s roots. And because it’s so beautiful, Urs says. There are wonderful landscapes, a rich culture, a long history. You buy a house, agricultural land. The house is renovated, converted into a guesthouse. One would like to bring the beautiful country closer to holiday guests. But there are also the many unemployed women. How could they be given work? Growing wine? There is a lack of know-how – and above all of water. The idea of growing saffron is the first in Armenia to emerge. Of course, saffron is known here, Iran is not far away. The grandmother used it to dye carpets, Anush recalls, but cooked, no. Saffron tastes wonderful. And it also thrives on barren soil.

Sari Safran: sustainable and social Urs and Anush also found Urs together with a good friend. He accompanied them to Armenia in 2008. Again the following year. After I really got to know the country and its people, it happened to me, he says. The idea becomes concrete: high-quality saffron, organically produced for the Swiss market. That is one goal. The other, equally important: helpers should be paid fairly and actively support their families.

Spring 2014: In Holland they buy 100 saffron tubers, put them in the Armenian soil. The saffron is thriving and in October 2014 it will be harvested for personal use. Friends who try the saffron are thrilled: excellent quality. The joy is huge, the tubers multiply. Year after year, the harvest is getting bigger, as are the ambitions. The goals set are being implemented: In August 2017, they buy 50,000 saffron nolls and expand the cultivation area to 2000 square meters. Anush, Urs and Urs still take the pimple into their own hands. Above all, however, the women from the surrounding area take care of the field. Some of them have paid work for the first time.

Autumn 2018: Premium saffron Saffron is a labor-intensive product, especially if you produce sustainably. The summer of 2018 is hot and dry, the floor hard, the work especially strict: blisters on the hands, aching limbs. Then comes autumn.

October 2018: Harvesting takes place for four weeks, daily, before sunrise. This is important: the flowers are still half closed, the ingredients are present in the highest concentration. Carefully, the purple flowers are placed in large wicker baskets. A little later, the helpers sit at a table. They pluck the saffron threads individually from the flowers, but handle relaxed, with lively chatter and giggles. They carefully place the threads on the baking paper provided.

Pure saffron, tested in the laboratory: Sari saffron has its deep red color because it consists of 100 percent scar branches – without the light yellow pen or other components. The threads are dried for two to three days. Not in an oven, but in a slightly heated room. Thus, crocin, picocrocin and the flavoring substance saffranal are preserved to the maximum.

Saffron, Category 1: Classification as Category 1 saffron is due to pre-sunrise harvesting, careful processing and slow drying. The effort is worth it. In late autumn 2018, the first full harvest reaches Switzerland, where it is carefully stored and packaged. Sari saffron is saffron for the highest demands, which is also confirmed by top chefs. Yes, the love, the care that is in it, plays a role in this. But the most important thing is that it gives a lot of pleasure: the producers and helpers, the cooks and the connoisseurs.

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