Saffron is one of the most sought-after spices in the world. As to why there are a few factors to consider. From a delightful flavor and various potential health benefits to a difficult and laborious harvesting process. Here we shall detail all that you need to know about this wondrous and rare spice.
What is Saffron?
Saffron is a spice originally found in the middle east, where even today Iran remains the number one producer. The spice comes from the Saffron Crocus, more specifically the flower of it. Its bright color makes it stand out from other spices and is used in several industries including the food and beverage industry.
The Saffron Crocus flower enjoys large amounts of bright sunlight and thrives in well hydrated and well-drained soil. It also prefers loose and clay-based soils. As these flowers must be harvested by hand, this mouth-tingling spice takes many hours to prepare for usage.
In total, creating one pound of saffron can use up to 75,000 blossoms. This staggering amount is what drives up the price of the spice and makes it one of the most expensive on the market today.
What is Saffron Used For?
There are many uses for this highly adaptable spice. Some of the most popular uses for it are below:
Saffron is Used for Cooking
One of the most common uses of Saffron is in cooking. As such a unique spice, with textured flavors and color, the spice has been added to many dishes since its discovery. You might recognize it in recipes such as a Spanish Paella, or taste it in a French Bouillabaisse.
Not only savory dishes however get to use this delightful spice, both rice pudding from India, and Ice-Cream from Iran use it as well. The spice can additionally be used to make special teas and coffees, served cold or hot.
Depending on the need for the spice it can be used in a multitude of ways in cooking, either by soaking some of the threads in hot water, grinding in a pestle and mortar, or by adding directly into rice or broths. And there’s never any need to go overboard, a little Saffron they say goes a long way.
Saffron has long been used by many societies as a coloring for materials and clothes. This is because the spice contains a special pigment, crocin, which creates a beautiful golden hue to the material. It can also be used on dishes.
This works simply by boiling dried saffron flowers in water and adding the material to it. It is favored greatly as it produces a very strong even color.
Saffron Cosmetic Products
A spice of many attributes, it has long been used to give the user beautiful and clear skin. This is due to the fact the spice increases the circulation of the blood and can create a flush of color that notifies the viewer of good health. A must-have ingredient to any self-care routine.
Perfumes and Colognes
Saffron has long been a key ingredient to many a perfume and cologne. Adding an earthy smell, its honey-like feel almost makes any perfume feel like Ambrosia of the Gods. It has also traditionally been used to scent temples and bathhouses due to its luxurious smell.
Ritual and Culture
Finally, in some cultures due to many features and properties, it has been included in rituals across the world. As a substance with much power to heal, it’s not surprising cultures have embedded this magic-like spice into the most revered parts of their culture.
What Are the Benefits of Saffron?
From its early usage in Ancient Greece, Saffron has long been considered a spice with medicinal healing properties. Prescribed to treat anything from mood instability, to low libido, and enhance memory, Saffron truly is considered a wonder medicine. As the spice is safe to consume, and easy to add to food, it is a simple solution for many health issues.
Over time, the range of properties of Saffron has grown, and here are a few of the most popular benefits of taking the spice:
- Treats Depression
Although not fully proven, research suggests that taking a regular dose can help brighten moods.
- Aids Weight Loss
A great way of curbing the craving to eat, and reducing snacking. More research however is still required to fully understand its effects.
We’ve all heard of the power antioxidants have on our bodies, and Saffron has a large number of these life-improving compounds. A great way of protecting the body against oxidative stress.
- Reducing PMS
Any woman who suffers from PMS will tell you how needed a drug to reduce the symptoms is, this spice has been shown to reduce PMS. Further studies are required.
Although this needs much more research, it has been found that the spice’s high level of antioxidants can help neutralize free radicals doing damage to the body. These free radicals are linked to many diseases including Cancer.
N.B: Important to note many of these benefits lack full clinical evidence and need to have further research carried out to fully understand their properties and healing capabilities.
What Does Saffron Taste Like?
For some, the taste of Saffron is indescribable. For others, it reminds them of hay and honey, with an element of metallic notes. A hard smell to pin down, but once smelt it is never forgotten. A gentle, wonderful fragrance that slowly works its way through your nasal passage. It is unlike anything you’ve smelt before.
Why is Saffron So Expensive?
The main contributing factor towards the expensive price tag on Saffron lies in its harvesting and packaging process. The flowers, and the highly sought-after threads within them, must be harvested by hand. This means many, many hours of manual labor by farmers and their employees. To put this into context, harvesting 150,000 flowers would take 40 hours of labor to complete. And of that 1,000 flowers are needed for every ounce made. Once the math is done, you immediately understand the reason behind the cost.
Once collected these special threads are heated, and then cured to retrieve the distinct flavor. The final price of Saffron on the market can accumulate to anywhere between $500-5,000 for 1lb.
Additionally, the best quality of this spice is found mostly in Iran, but also further out across the Middle East and into Asia. To ensure you get luxury Saffron to use in your cooking, source your Saffron from Kolikof to guarantee the best quality. Saffron may be on the pricier side on the spice rack, but with a small amount, your food experience can ascend to the heavens, and you can feast as if you were among the gods.