Saffron, the red gold from Leogang
When people are enthusiastic about something and the whole family from grandchildren to great-grandmother helps together, then something special is created. In this case: organic saffron from Leogang, which the Mayrhofer family and the Wölfler family have brought back to Austria.
It is early in the morning. Georg Wölfler, his wife Carina, their son Samuel and Georg's mother Monika are at the saffron field as they often are in autumn. Every day, they are excited to see how many blossoms they can expect that day. These are then harvested by hand and later processed together with the whole family in the cozy living room. Today in the fog, some of the beautiful crocus-like flowers have opened, from the center you can find the red saffron threads, which makes the family satisfied. The fog and generally the Pinzgau climate suits the saffron well, although at first you would expect it to grow in more exotic areas.
From Austria and back to Austria
After all, who would have thought that Austria was known for saffron in the Middle Ages? Monika was also surprised when she heard about it in a documentary a few years ago. Until about 100 years ago, Austria was indeed one of the most important saffron-growing regions and was especially known for the excellent quality of the saffron grown here. In the meantime, 90% of the valuable plant is grown in Iran. After this documentation, Monika could not get rid of the idea of regional saffron cultivation. She told her family about it and was immediately met with great enthusiasm. Her brother Leo Mayrhofer, as a farmer, was able to provide the area and it was he who, as a starting signal, independently dug 250 saffron tubers into the earth and surprised the family with them at harvest time. In the meantime, an area of 600 m² has been planted with saffron at Ottinghof.
Red threads, yellow colouring
We are standing right next to this area today, and let the Wölfler family tell us a few things about this plant, which is so rare here. Not only that it loves the fog and avoids direct sunlight, makes us amazed. Also that saffron cannot be artificially propagated and that there is only 1 variety of it. Or that it is said to have an anti-depressant and mood-lifting effect. However, saffron is primarily used in the kitchen as a valuable spice, be it for risotto, with fish, in milk bread or as saffron sugar for all kinds of desserts. The exciting fact about it is that the red threads colour the food yellow, and only the smallest amounts are needed.
Saffron as a family project
The purple Saffron flowers are harvested, and then they enter the great-grandmother Lisi's warm living room. Here the whole family comes together and everyone helps. The red saffron threads are pulled out of the blossom and then dried in a dark room. Among the locals in Leogang, the "red gold" is then carefully packaged in handmade boxes in 0.1 g cans. In the first year, the organic saffron was sold out after just 2 weeks. Also this year the interest is impressive. The spice is now sold not only to end customers, but for some time also to the catering industry. The first of the many quality-conscious gastronomes was Andreas Herbst from the Riederalm, who exclusively cooks regional products in his restaurant "dahoam" and immediately showed great interest in the local saffron. Hans Jörg Unterrainer from Kirchenwirt was also enthusiastic about the red gold from Leogang.
Quality before quantity
Where exactly the journey of the saffron family from Leogang will take us remains in the unknown. However, what is clear, is that quality and the joy of doing activities will be given a high priority. "We don't want to be on the supermarket shelf," Georg underlines. The family would much rather continue to have direct contact with its customers and inspire many people with the red gold from Leogang.
Mayrhofer & Wölfler family
T: +43 660 60 65 840
The Leogang organic saffron is also available in the farm store of the Ziefer farmer:
Tuesday 10 AM - 12 PM
Friday 2 PM - 5 PM
Photos: Michael Geißler
Date: October 13th 2022