The Autumn of the Saffron Gatherers

Exotic, enigmatic, irresistible: saffron is the spice of kings and worth its weight in gold. Near the town of Safranbolu lie the country’s last few fields of this precious crocus. Text and photographs by Andrew Byfield.

Who was it, I wonder, who dreamt up the idea of cooking with saffron (safran in Turkish)? The firey red threads come from the stigmas – the female filaments at the centre of the autumn-flowering crocus, Crocus sativas. The plant itself is an enigmatic thing: it is unknown in the wild, and indeed is incapable of replicating itself from seed. Literally worth its weight in gold, it supplies the most expensive spice on earth – and yet, in countries like Turkey, the industry teeters on the brink of extinction.

Also in this issue ‘Greenmantle’ – a six-page feature by David Tonge on the arboretum created by Hayrettin Karaca outside Yalova near Marmara.

To read the full article, purchase Issue 9

Issue 9, 1995/96 Ideal Worlds
£50.00 / $62.15 / 356.02 TL
Other Highlights from Cornucopia 9
  • Jewels of the Fall

    Along with salads, pickles are an important part of Turkish cookery throughout the year. They range from simple sweet and sour vegetable relishes marinaded in vinegar, or quick-brined side dishes of fish or cucumber, to serious vinegar-based preserves that last well into winter.
    More cookery features

  • Artistic Licence

    Kámil Gök lived all his life in the village of Dereliköy, among people who neither sculpt nor paint. In 1972 he became an impulsive sculptor. As his work proliferated his neighbours turned against him…

  • A Room for the Books

    The library of Ahmet Vefik Pasha, by Patricia Daunt with photographs by Simon Upton. Secluded on a cliff beside the fortress of Rumeli Hisarı is a kiosk that was once the retreat of a bon vivant bibliophile.

  • Stone Age Renaissance

    Turkey’s most innovative architects are learning from the nation’s fast vanishing heritage. Barnaby Rogerson and Rose Baring report on the work of Ahmet Igdirligil, a man dedicated to bringing the logic and fabric of the past into the present day.

  • On the Roof of the World

    The sixteenth-century Atik Valide Mosque in Üsküdar was built as a tribute to the beautiful Venetian woman, captured by Hayreddin Barbarossa, who went on to dominate the Ottoman court. Godfrey Goodwin witnesses the skilful recladding of the mosque’s magnificent dome.

  • The Changing Amazon

    Scholars are exploding the stereotype of the submissive sex. Depictions of Anatolian women through the ages, seen at a memorable exhibition at the Topkapi Palace, are part of their ammunition. Report by Jennifer Scarce

  • Birds in Paradise

    The Göksu delta is a wild and windy wetland of marshes, reeds and just the occasional bird-watcher. Here, thousands of the rarest birds break their journey across the Levant. By Alice Carswell with photographs by Nâfiz Güder.

Buy the issue
Issue 9, 1995/96 Ideal Worlds
£50.00 / $62.15 / 356.02 TL