By Dale Fuchs in Madrid
Saffron, the spindly red spice known as "poor man's gold", is staging a comeback in the dusty plains of La Mancha, the seasoning heartland of Spain.
The painstaking production of the delicate filaments, which require 200 purple crocus flowers for every gram and sell for up to £24 an ounce, had been declining for decades because of competition from a cheaper variety grown in Iran.
But the regional government, looking for new schemes to raise La Mancha's profile, is promoting its saffron as a luxury export, following the success of other gourmet Spanish ingredients such as olive oil and wine. It recently established a quality control board with an official La Mancha seal, and is paying saffron producers to show their wares at food trade fairs abroad.