The rich golden yellow of this pappardelle comes from saffron. You've likely heard of saffron, and if it makes you think of far away exotic lands, you're absolutely right. If it makes you think "expensive," you're right again.
But what is saffron, exactly?
1. Saffron the spice is harvested from the saffron crocus, a vivid purple flower with bright red "threads" sticking out of the center of the bloom. These threads are harvested by hand and dried to become the saffron you buy in the store.
2. The saffron crocus does not appear anywhere on Earth in the wild - it only exists where it is cultivated by man. It cannot reproduce without human assistance.
3. It is a fussy, picky plant that likes hot, dry weather, originally found in the Middle East. Almost all saffron still grows in the regions between Spain and Pakistan.
4. But there is a pocket of American saffron production that is cultivated by the Amish in, of all places, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
4. All saffron crocus bloom within a two week period, so all harvesting must happen during that window. Individual blooms last only a day!
5. Harvesting is slow and tedious - it takes about 40 human hours to pick about 2 pounds of dried saffron.
6. Saffron quickly degrades when exposed to light and air so must be stored carefully.
7. In the Middle Ages, enterprising spice sellers would secretly cut their saffron stores with other less valuable spices . . . and be executed when they were caught selling sub-par saffron!
8. Although it is sold dried, most recipes call for the cook to soak the threads in water before use.
9. Alexander the Great is rumored to have infused his post-battle baths with saffron, believing it had healing properties.
10. Throughout its history, saffron was believed to alleviate melancholy, aka depression, and modern science does not refuted this claim.
Now the next time you serve up our saffron pappardelle, you'll have some saffron trivia to go with it!