October is such a special month for me that I am dedicating a third workshop to the season’s rich produce. This one differs from the other two in October for one very special addition:

I am a huge fan of Tuscan Zafferano (saffron). The cultivation of saffron in Tuscany goes back a long way – at least to the 1500’s. After a period of falling out of usage, many growers in the original geographical pockets of production have re-introduced cultivation of the saffron crocus and produce small quantities of very high quality stamens. My favourite happens to be very close to home and our kitchen. The harvest season is short and critical and the farmer’s family is roped in. Having curious food lovers around in these two short weeks is not the best thing for them but he has agreed to allow our workshoppers in to see what the harvest involves. Just two times.

It fascinates me and one never wonders again, after this, why high quality saffron is so expensive.

How lucky am I that this farmer is located pretty close to one of our favourite wine producers. This is a man who speaks of his grapes and wines in soft and knowledgable tones as if talking of his children, which in a way they are. He is the fifth generation wine producer in his family who has always grown grapes on the same terroir in the Arno Valley. He produces no brochures but is sought out by connoisseurs internationally. He will introduce his wines personally to us.

Returning we will stop off to collect fresh funghi porcini. Back home we will be using the fresh saffron and porcini to prepare our supper dishes, before winding down in front of a cosy log fire with more of those wonderful wines.

Food loving Tuscans in this month are anticipating chestnut flour and wild boar, funghi porcini and pumpkins, fresh pink marbled borlotti beans so extravagantly artistic that it’s almost a shame to eat them and, with the first frosts, cavolo nero (Tuscan black cabbage). As always our Tuscan recipes follow the season and its traditions, so there will be hearty soups, pasta, risottos, hunter-style meats. Robust Chianti’s as accompaniments.

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