The women of Taliouine, in southern Morocco, gather to sort the delicate tufts of red saffron from its violet flower, picked from the early hours of dawn, and carefully arranged in baskets made of reeds.
After isolating the saffron strands, they are dried at a high temperature or in the shade, and then packaged to be ready for local and international markets.
“Free saffron” or “red gold” as Moroccans call it because of its high value, as it is one of the most valuable spices in the world, and it is not surprising that I came across gold traders in Morocco selling free saffron, which is measured in grams, as the price of one gram of this luxurious product reaches to 4 dollars.
No house in Morocco is free of free saffron coming from the city of Taliouine, as it is included in the recipes for preparing the most famous traditional Moroccan dishes, and is known for its multiple health benefits.
The capital of saffron
In the month of November, the city of Taliouine is covered in red, meaning saffron. This small city in the middle of the Atlas Mountains is famous worldwide thanks to the quality of the types of saffron that are produced locally, and saffron requires a workforce that has experience and expertise in how to deal carefully with the rare and expensive plant.
The saffron production campaign begins in Taliouine, with the beginning of July to mid-October of each year, and passes through the planting of saffron bulbs and watering them superficially and then directly, to start after its flower opens, the process of picking, which is the task entrusted to women, from late October to Beginning of November, and lasts about two weeks.
In Taliouine, the town of Red Gold, as it is called, has been held every year and regularly since 2007 to celebrate this unique product. It bears its name “Talwin Free Saffron Festival”, which is considered of high quality and today its producer competes with India, Iran and Greece, as well as the producers of “Talwin saffron”. “Thin Aseel reaches 4 kilograms per hectare annually.
Obtaining 500 grams of “red gold” requires planting 70,000 flowers, which are required to be healthy and valid. Fresh saffron for Taliouine, after being dried, loses a lot of its weight, and 25 kilograms of it becomes only 5 kilograms after drying.
The price of one kilogram ranges between 10,000 and 15,000 dirhams (US$3,000), and it takes between 120,000 and 140,000 flowers to produce one kilogram of “Free Taliouine Saffron”.
In the center of Taliouine, the capital of red gold, the “Dar Al Zaafaran” (museum) was established on December 12, 2011. This shop was completed at a cost of 6.5 million dirhams. It includes production and marketing spaces, a laboratory, halls for isolating saffron, and a museum for means of production. This “house” (the stock exchange), the first in Morocco, which brings together more than 340 women and 22 cooperatives, is considered “Talouine saffron of high quality based on three characteristics: taste, color and aroma.”
The center has the quality mark and the designation of origin known as “Origine de Production” which guarantees quality at various stages in response to the Saffron Stock Exchange’s Tolerance Book. Despite the efforts made, there are still difficulties, as I, the officials of Dar Al Zaafaran, admitted the existence of fraud and great competition in the Moroccan and international market… But despite all this, Moroccan saffron, especially the Taliouen saffron product, remains the finest in the world.