Saffron Strands derived from the 3 dried stigmas of each Crocus Sativus flower and has a deep auburn colour and sweet Aroma. As well as being known for being reassuringly expensive, is packed with antioxidants. The stigmas can only be picked by hand and it takes half a million stigmas to make just a kilo of saffron, hence the cost. Fortunately, a little saffron goes a long way and great as a gift for the home kitchen as well as the professional. The most sought after variety is from north East Persia.
It is reputed to combat depression and lower blood pressure, to soften skin and hair and is a key ingredient in a broad range of dishes from Swedish buns to Spanish paella, to Persian rice dishes and Indian curries.
Cleopatra used it to infuse her bathwater, and for centuries Persians traded Saffron to the Chinese for silk and to the Arabs for Frankincense.
Alexander the Great took Saffron baths to sooth battle wounds (sustained ironically by Persian Swords) and also favoured saffron tea .
How to check if saffron is genuine
- Check it has strands which are frayed at one end
- Look for a deep red hue that colours warm water orangey-yellow
- Smell it and put it on your tongue – Real saffron will smell slightly fruity with a heady floral aroma. It should taste sweet and bitter at the same time