Know About Saffron
Saffron is amongst the most expensive spices in the world! Saffron is cultivated majorly in Iran but is also grown in Spain, France, Italy (on the lower spurs of the Apennines Range), and parts of India.
Saffron flowers are cultivated in the Autumn and comes up every year, so it is known as a perennial plant. The plants are 20–30 cm (8–12 inch) in height and bear up to four flowers. A three-pronged style 25–30 mm (1.0–1.2 inch) in length, emerges from each flower. Each prong terminates with a vivid crimson stigma, which is the distal end of a carpel. The three stigmas are handpicked from each flower than spread on trays and dried over charcoal fires and used for food flavoring and coloring.
One pound (0.45 kilogram) of saffron is obtained from 75,000 blossoms. Saffron contains 0.5 to 1 percent essential oil.
Historical Background And
Early Uses Of Saffron
The use of saffron reaches back more than 3,500 years and spans across many cultures, continents, and civilizations. The first historic references upon the use of saffron come from Ancient Egypt, where Cleopatra and other Pharaohs used saffron as an aromatic and seductive essence, and to make ablutions in temples and sacred places. Saffron was first documented in a 7th-century BC Assyrian botanical reference compiled under Ashurbanipal. Saffron slowly spread throughout much of Eurasia, later reaching parts of North Africa, North America, and Oceania.
Believed native to the Mediterranean area, Asia Minor, and Iran, the saffron crocus has long been cultivated in Iran and Kashmir and is supposed to have been introduced into Cathay by the Mongol invasion. The ancient Greeks and Romans used saffron as perfume. It is mentioned in the Chinese materia medica (Pun tsaou, 1552–78). In early times, however, the chief seat of cultivation was in Cilicia, in Asia Minor. In India in ancient times, saffron was used as a water-soluble fabric dye. Shortly after Buddha died, his priests made saffron the official colour for their robes. The dye has been used for royal garments in several cultures. In the writings of Galen and Hippocrates, saffron was mentioned as a medical treatment for coughs, colds, stomach ailments, insomnia, uterine bleeding, scarlet fever, heart trouble, and flatulence.
Among the varieties most hard to find is the saffron coming from the area of Kashmir. Here they produce the darkest variety in the world which tends towards a purple-brown colour, called Mongra or Lacha.
Ingredients & Nutrition Facts
- Dried saffron is composed of 65% carbohydrates, 6% fat, 11% protein (table) and 12% water.
- Saffron contains several plant-derived chemical compounds that are known to have been anti-oxidant, disease-preventing, and health-promoting properties.
- The spice is an excellent source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, selenium, zinc and magnesium.
How To Identify Fake Saffron?
While buying whole saffron threads, there are a few key things to look for:
- Colour – Good quality saffron has a dark red or reddish-orange colour.
- Shape – You should be able to see individual threads.
- Price – There is no such thing as “cheap” saffron, so if the price seems too good to be true… it probably is!
Interesting Facts About Saffron
- The name Saffron comes from the Arabic word, ”zafaran” which means yellow and it is the official color of Buddhist robes in India.
- The best quality saffron has a deep red color, honey-like aroma with a delicate taste but musky and earthy.
- Commercial saffron is primarily produced in Spain, India, and Iran.
- It takes around 14,000 stigmas to produce only one ounce of saffron threads.