Quality traits of saffron produced in Italy: geographical area effect and good practices





Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) is the most expensive spice in the world and is used in food, cosmetic and dyeing industries. Considering that the production of saffron is increasingly widespread in medium-small Italian farms as well as the scarceness of information and studies regarding the quality of the saffron produced in Italy, the principal aim of this study was to investigate the quality of Italian saffron. Qualitative analysis was conducted in accordance with ISO 3632 1,2:2010-2011 considering 484 samples collected over four years (2015-2018). In particular, moisture content, aroma strength (safranal), colouring strength (crocin) and flavour strength (picrocrocin) were assessed for each sample, and whether spice quality varied according to the geographical area where the spice was produced was also investigated. Qualitative analysis showed that the majority (84-93%) of the samples analysed are of the first quality category, regardless of the year of production. Moisture content and colouring strength are the factors that influence the quality of the spice most. Principal component analysis showed that quality is not influenced by the geographical area where the spice was produced. Finally, some best agricultural practices to obtain a high quality saffron spice are reported.