Saffron is a particularly expensive spice and is therefore also known in many places as "yellow gold". One kilogram of saffron costs up to 800 euros. This is mainly due to its laborious extraction: around 800 blossoms are needed to produce 5 grams of saffron. These are grown and harvested exclusively by hand. Since saffron is very productive and even small quantities are enough to give dishes a unique touch, many people do not have to do without the exotic spice despite the high price and can purchase it in smaller quantities.
The origin, properties and history of saffron
The saffron powder as we know it is obtained from the fine pistil threads of the saffron flower. These are harvested by hand, dried and then packaged in small quantities and sold as a faithful spice. Since a saffron plant has only one or two flowers, each with three pistillate filaments, an extremely large quantity of saffron flowers is needed to produce the yellow spice.
Unfortunately, it is not too uncommon for the spice to be stretched with other parts of the plant and then still be sold on the market at extremely high prices. To distinguish real saffron from fakes, you can put a small amount of saffron in a bowl of water or milk and observe how the saffron product behaves: If it quickly gives off its color to the liquid it is a fake, because real saffron also discolors the liquid - but it needs at least 10 minutes for this and does not lose its color. You can also recognize real saffron by its taste and aroma. Real saffron has a strong fragrance and a bitter aroma - it smells sweet but tastes slightly bitter. Stretched saffron, on the other hand, has a sweet note both in taste and aroma.
Originally, saffron comes from the Middle East. However, the spice came to Europe early on, as it was already used by the Romans and ancient Greeks as a healing and coloring agent. According to Greek mythology, Zeus also slept in a saffron bed, as saffron is said to have increased the libido. This belief was also widely prepared among the Romans, which is why it was customary to distribute saffron leaves in bed on the wedding night.
Today, saffron is grown mainly in Iran, Spain, Morocco, Greece, Italy, Turkey and even in Austria and Switzerland. Available is the spice throughout the year for up to 14 euros per gram.
The ingredients of saffron
Saffron is very rich in calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron. Vitamins, on the other hand, are represented only in smaller quantities. The tart taste is due to the bitter substance picrocrocin (saffron bitters) and the spice owes its golden color to the carotenoid crocin.
The effect of saffron on our body
Saffron has an anti-inflammatory and analgesic effect and is therefore often used to treat various diseases and ailments. It not only helps with liver and respiratory diseases, but also with menstrual cramps. The yellow spice is said to relieve mood swings, skin blemishes, breast tenderness and abdominal pain. In addition, saffron is also considered a mood enhancer among spices and is said to combat depressive moods.
Saffron in the kitchen
Care should be taken when preparing saffron: If you cook the saffron threads for too long, they quickly lose their flavor and aroma. Therefore, the saffron threads should only be soaked for a few minutes in a little water, broth or milk and only add to the actual dish at the end. Saffron powder, on the other hand, does not require more precise preparation and can be used without any problems to season dishes at any time. Due to its aroma, saffron is well suited for oriental, Indian and Arabic dishes. But also traditional dishes such as Spanish paella, risotto, soups and sauces can be refined with the spice.
Purchase and storage
When buying should pay attention to the quality. The Spanish coupe and Indian Sargol are the Mercedes' among the saffron species and are accordingly priced somewhat higher. If you want to buy good saffron, you should also look for the following letter and number combination on the label: "ISO 3632-2″. This value represents the so-called ISO classification and divides saffron into different quality categories depending on the crocin value (color value). The higher the content of natural colorants, bitters and fragrances, the more valuable the spice is. If you are unsure about the purchase, please ask a seller for advice. At home, saffron should be stored in a cool, dark and dry place. The best containers for this purpose are resealable containers made of dark brown glass or metal.