The cultivation cycle of Crocus Sativus L., from which the PDO saffron is obtained, starts with the ploughing of the fi elds to a depth of 30 cms and the application of 300 quintals of mature manure per hectare. The soil is dressed and the surface levelled. The beds are then prepared and 2 – 4 furrows 20 – 25 cms apart dug. This is where the new corms will be planted 2 -3 cms apart.
No other type of fertilizer will be applied during the vegetative cycle. Afterwards the soil must be kept soft until the planting, which takes place in August. The number of corms per hectare ranges from 90 to 100 quintals i.e. from 500 to 600 corms. The soil is never irrigated.

The corms are planted in beds with 2 – 3 furrows each, 20 cms apart and at a depth of about 10 cms. The vegetative cycle begins with the fi rst rains in September when a few narrow vertical leaves emerge from the ground.
The flowers
are composed of six pinkishpurple petals, the crimsonred stigma which are divided into three threads (fi laments) ending in a trumpet-shaped apex fi xed to the base by a white stalk, (ovary) and three yellow stamens commonly called “females” but which are actually the male part of the fl ower. The leaves can grow to a length of 40 cms and are dark green.

The blossoms are picked in the early morning before the sun opens them. Once they have been harvested they are opened and the stigmas removed. These stigmas are placed in an upturned fl our sieve and hung over hot wood coals (almond or oak) in the fi replace. The toastingis the most crucial moment of the whole process. During toasting the stigmas lose 5/6 of their weight so that 600 grams of fresh stigmas yield 100 grams of dry ones.

The finished product retains 5 – 10% humidity. Powdered saffron, ready to be packed in sachets, is obtained by grinding the dried stigmas with a normal grinder. The product should be stored in a dark, dry place. As soon as the harvest is over the daughter corms (cormlets) start to form. The part of the saffron plant above ground dries out completely in summer and stays dormant for the whole season. This biological cycle of development proves that the plant is compatible with an area where the thermic threshold is about 20 – 25°C and the rainfall less than 20 – 30 mms.
The harvest lasts about 15 – 20 days. It takes about 200,000 flowers and 500 hours of labour to produce 1 kg of saffron.

The product must be sold in paper packets or glass jars, or containers made of other materials conforming to current Community regulations regarding the packaging of foodstuffs. The net weight of the contents of each package, as well as the specifi cation as to whether the saffron is in powder or in thread form, must be declared. There are no limitations as to the quantity in each package.

The labels must bear the date of packaging and the expiry date of the product as well as the PDO logo, the designation “Zafferano dell’Aquila – Protected Designation of Origin”, the name, type of company and address of the producer and, if applicable, the producer’s trade mark.