Saffron, which is taken from the stigmas of the saffron crocus, is a lucrative crop. Also called oro rosso, or red gold, it was first introduced into the region around the 13th century — an import from Spain. Prized as an exotic spice, it was sold in the wealthier regions and cities of Milan and Venice, and abroad in France, Germany and Austria.
… Saffron is harvested in the hours just before sunrise, while the crocus petals remain closed; this makes the flowers easier to pick and helps protect their precious crimson-red stigmas. The delicate buds are handpicked and placed into baskets. Later, on the same day, the stigmas — three tiny threads per flower — are separated from the moist petals. It’s a delicate process that takes hours with a skilled and patient hand.
In the evening, over an open wood fire, the bright threadlike stigmas are dried in wire baskets, a process that adds to the richness of both the color (sic) and the flavor (sic).
From: Susan Wright, The World Through a Lens: An Intimate Look at Italy’s Saffron Harvest, NY Times, 12 May 2020
Saffron has been harvested in autumn from an area in Italy east of the Appenine mountains, in the fields of the Navelli plateau and beyond., for hundreds of years.