Information about Saffron plus Saffron Recipes
is derived from the Saffron Crocus Flower species Crocus
sativus which belongs to the Iris Family Iridaceae. The parts used
for culinary purposes are the stigma or style: the central yellow threads which
are, in fact, the female sexual organs of the flower. As there are very few
stigma in any one flower, it takes 150,000 flowers to produce one kilogram of
dried saffron, making it the most expensive spice in the world.
and History of Saffron
probably first appeared in Crete, Greece. An origin in Western or Central
Asia has been disproved by botanical research and there is evidence that it was
used in Ancient Mesopotamia (now Iraq) over 5,000 years ago and as Saffron
is the triploid form of a species found in Eastern Greece, Crocus
cartwrigthianus this would prove very ancient trade between the
Eastern Mediterranean and Mesopotamia.
The Ebers Papyrus
(Ca 1550 BC) mentioned it as an ingredient in remedies for kidney problems
and is well documented in the Bhavprakash Nikhantu, the
Ayurvedic Bible which is as old as the Indian culture for healing a variety of
diseases and the Greeks considered saffron to be the essence of youth and life,
whilst the Ancient Chinese attributed saffron with considerable medicinal
properties and drank it as a tea for almost any ailment.
of the high cost and labour intensive means of gathering Saffron, it has led to
unscrupulous merchants "doctoring" pure saffron, adding safflower or
marigold petals, or soaking the real threads in oil to add weight. In fact in
the 1400's in Germany, rigid inspections became the practice, the
penalty for falsification being just as harsh with the guilty parties burned
alive with their false saffron.
Today, saffron is
cultivated from the Western Mediterranean to India. Spain and Iran are the
largest producers, accounting for more than 80% of the world's production.
Cultivation of Saffron
it is possible to grow saffron yourself, we recommend that unless you can be
100% sure of the corms you are buying, you don't attempt it due to the
similarity of the saffron crocus to the autumn crocus Colchicum
spp, the latter being poisonous if eaten.
grown saffron is produced from corms as the plants are sterile and don't produce
seeds. These are divided after the plant dies back once it has flowered. Each
crocus corm produces two to nine flowers per season, and each flower has three
long red-orange stigma branches, attached together at the base. The stigma
are hand harvested in the Autumn during the short flowering season.
Saffron is used all
over the world to flavour and colour foods from Spanish paella to French
bouillabaisse to Arabic lamb and chicken dishes to Indian dessert sauces, as
well as in many Swedish and Cornish recipes, but as it's such an expensive
spice, it's important to get every bit of flavour out of it. This can be achieved
by either toasting and powdering the threads or steeping the saffron ahead of
time in hot water or broth.
To Toast Saffron
threads, place the strands in a dry frying pan about 30 seconds only
or until they begin to give off an aroma. Be very careful not to burn them. Cool
and crush finely between two spoons. They can also be dried out in a microwave,
again for 30 seconds on high. You can buy ready powdered saffron.
When using whole
threads, steep them in hot water for at least 15 minutes to extract as
much flavour as possible. The longer better - up to 4 hours. If using alcohol,
there's no need to heat it. Always store saffron in an airtight
container in a dark place so it stays viable for longer. You can also buy liquid
Click here for
lots of recipes using Saffron