Saffron is indigenous to India and Iran. It is formed from the whole, orange-red dried saffron threads, the stigma of the autumn crocus, crocus sativus. Look for a reliable supplier of saffron, as it is very expensive, and there can be a great deal of adulteration.
The flower has one three-pronged stigma, which is the distal ends of the plants carpels. Together with its style, the stalk connecting the stigmas to the rest of the plant, these components picked by hand and are dried and used in cooking as a seasoning and coloring agent. Saffron has for a long time been the world’s most expensive spice by weight.
Saffron is characterized by its stunning golden yellow colour, a bittersweet taste and an iodoform – or hay-like fragrance; these are caused by the chemicals picrocrocin and safranal. It also contains a carotenoid dye, crocin, that gives food a rich golden-yellow hue. These traits make saffron a much sought-after ingredient in many foods worldwide.
Saffron also has medicinal applications. Experts believe saffron was first documented in a 7th century BC Assyrian botanical reference compiled under Ashurbanipal. Since then, documentation of saffron’s use over the span of 4,000 years in the treatment of some 90 illnesses has been uncovered. It has also been detected as a pigment used in 50,000 year old depictions of prehistoric places in northwest Iran.
The word saffron originated from the 12th century Old French term safran, which derives from the Latin word safranum. Safranum is also related to the Italian zafferano and Spanish azafrán.
Saffron’s aroma is often described by connoisseurs as reminiscent of metallic honey with grassy or hay-like notes, while its taste has also been noted as hay-like and sweet. Saffron is widely used in Spanish, Persian, Indian, European, Arab, and Turkish cuisines. Saffron is a particular favourite of the Iranians and Iraqis and is used in pilaffs, stews and desserts. Indians often roast the saffron threads lightly before soaking them in a small amount of hot milk to bring out the flavour and colour. This milk is then poured over rice, and in dishes such as biryani, to give it its orange highlights.
This is a wonderfull Kashmiri tea I have been fortunate to have in India: pinch of tea leaves, saffron, cloves, cardamom and cinnamon.
source of information: Wikipeadia
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