In the heart of a barren plateau at the edge of the Argan forest, Taliouine (in southwest Morocco) is famous for its excellent saffron. The village is situated between a land covered with argan trees (from the village of Assaki down to the sea) on the western side and rose cultivations on the eastern side, towards Ouazarzate.
Cultivated on the Souktana plateau at an altitude between 1300 and 1500 meters above sea level in a very dry zone, Taliouine saffron has a high concentration of safranal (the constituent primarily responsible for saffron’s fragrance) and an intense aroma with characteristic floral notes.
Eleven producers - members of the Coopérative Agicole de Taliouine supported by the Moroccan NGO Migrations et Développement - farm small plots of land (max. surface 1 hectare) and together with their families gather the flowers at dawn, when the petals are still closed, between the months of October and November. They place them in a cool room and separate the precious stigmas. Each stage of production is done by hand and natural fertilizers are used.
There are no particular varieties of saffron, but apparently the territory of the Souktana plateau, the climate and the producers' know-how are the main reasons for this product being valuable, even though the color is less vivid, its aroma and taste are much more intense than the others. In addition to saffron, medicinal herbs and vegetables are cultivated, while olive trees, almond trees and wild herbs grow at the edges of the fields.
The name of the cooperative (Taliouine) derives from the name of the village situated on the plateau and the local souk is the main point of sale for the saffron produced in this area.
The Slow Food Presidium producers keep the saffron in terracotta or glass jars and supply it to the cooperative for selling.
By maintaining saffron cultivation, increasing the availability of water and ensuring a fair return for the painstaking manual work of the family, people in Taliouine will be able to remain on their land, keeping their traditions and territory. Indeed, over the last few years, saffron has become well known and a has obtained a Protected Geographical Indication.
What is a Slow Food Presidia?
The Slow Food Presidia are projects sustaining quality production at risk of extinction, protecting unique regions and ecosystems, recovering traditional processing methods, safeguarding native breeds and local plant varieties.
Check out our website: http://www.slowfoodfoundation.com/presidia
Photos — Oliver Migliore