Today we are talking about common saffron related questions. These are frequently asked questions on Google and our customers usually reached out for answers. Lets get into it.
- What is Saffron?
Saffron is the string of Crocus Sativus, commonly referred to as Saffron or Zafran. Saffron is also famous as the “queen of spices” or “The Red Gold”. It is the red threads that come out of Crocus flower. It is mostly famous as the most expensive spice in the world.
- What is saffron made from?
Saffron is the red stigmas (pollen-bearing structures) from Crocus Sativus flavour. Each flower has 3-9 red strings inside them which are dried and used as saffron spice to add flavor, smell, and color to food.
- What does saffron taste like?
Although, saffron has its unique essence in flavor. Saffron tastes slightly sweet and has a floral and earthy taste. It has a herbal taste of unique sweetness and sour.
- What is saffron used for?
Saffron is used for flavor, color, and smell. In the food industry, saffron is used as a spice to get flavor, smell, and yellow color for seafoods and rice dishes. In manufacturing, saffron extracts are used as fragrance in perfumes and as a dye for cloth. And in pharmaceuticals, it is used to make tablets, and supplementals. And in cosmetology, saffron is used as a skin cream.
- Why is saffron expensive compared to other spices?
Saffron is only harvested in autumn from circus flowers. The entire process of harvesting and processing is by hand, and it is very labour intensive. On average, each flower produces three to five stigmas at a time. So if you are using roughly 25 stigmas to cook Saffron Risotto, or Spanish Seafood Paella, that is 8 different saffron circus flowers. This means it takes about 75,000 flowers to produce one pound or (half kilogram of saffron).
- Will saffron expire?
Saffron has two to three years of shelf-life. It will not expire or spoil, but it will lose more and more of its smell and flavor with age. Saffron is sensitive to light, so wrap the jar or packet in foil to protect it further.
- Where saffron is grown?
Majority of the world’s saffron is grown in Iran, Afghanistan, Greece, India, and Spain. Iran produces around 80% of the world's saffron. Afghanistan produces the world 7% of saffron. And the other three countries combined roughly produce 13% of the world’s saffron.
- Which saffron is the best?
Afghanistan and Iran saffron (Negin grade) are rated as the best saffron in the world. That is according to ISO 3632.2, and International Taste and Quality of Brussels.
- How to use saffron?
Less is more - just a pinch will go a long way. Saffron needs moisture to release its essence. The best way to extract flavor from saffron is to soak the threads in hot (not boiling) liquid for 5-20 minutes. As the saffron soaks, you will notice the distinctive aroma indicating that your saffron is ready to infuse your dish. Add both the saffron and liquid to your recipe.
- What is the quality assurance of saffron?
Lab tested for potency and purity in the USA. Our saffron and all other spices exceed the ISO standard for ultra premium quality.
- Can saffron be harmful? Saffron is not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding. And eating too much of any spice is not safe. According to WebMd, taking large amounts of saffron by mouth is possibly unsafe. High doses of 5 grams or more can cause poisoning. Use saffron and any other spices in a moderate amount.
- Are saffron and turmeric the same?
No, they are not. Saffron and turmeric give you somewhat similar colours. But saffron taste and smell is different from turmeric.
- Are saffron supplements safe?
According to WebMD, “Using saffron supplements in the short-term seems safe for most people. They may cause side effects like anxiety, appetite changes, upset stomach, sleepiness, and headache. Using saffron in high doses or for long periods of time may be risky. Some people are also allergic to saffron.”
- Are saffron threads edible?
Yes, you can eat saffron threads. However, it tastes, and smells better when applied in your favorite food and drinks, like saffron rice, saffron risotto, saffron milk, or saffron tea.
- Who buys saffron?
The United States is the world largest importer of saffron. Accordingly, Saudi Arabia, India, and Spain are the other three biggest buyers of saffrons.
- Who discovered saffron?
This is a controversial question, because different cultures and nations believe different narratives on who first discovered saffron. Some historians believe saffron was first cultivated and used in Greece during the Alexander The Great Empire. Others believe, Persian Civilizations (currently Iran and Afghanistan) first discovered saffron and used it as a herbal medicine. However, some historians believe that saffron first came to China with Mongol invaders by way of Persia.
- Why is saffron good for health?
Different cultures from Persian regions (Afghanistan, Iran, Tajikistan), to India and Pakistan believe in the health benefits of saffron. Here are some health benefits of saffron: A Powerful Antioxidant May Improve Mood and Treat Depressive Symptoms May Have Cancer-Fighting Properties May Reduce PMS Symptoms May Reduce Appetite and Aid Weight Loss May Act as an Aphrodisiac Lastly, saffron has been used for hundreds of years to treat an extensive number of sicknesses, including asthma, cough, heartburn, insomnia, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, dry skin, and cardiovascular ailments. We have a special blog post regarding this. Please read this to learn more about the health benefits of saffron.
- How to know if saffron is real?
When you buy saffron, you should focus on sourcing the best quality and authentic saffron. First, make sure the brand is famous and trustworthy. Heray Spice, is a farmers co-op that directly sources saffron from Herat, Afghanistan. And we always ensure that our saffron is real, fresh, and premium quality. Due to the high value of saffron, there are many adulterations of saffron in the market. Corn-silk and safflower are dyed with red food coloring and sold as saffron. Second, the best and authentic saffron should be deep red with yellow or orange tips. If it is only red, even better. It means you have the Negin saffron. Third, soak a few threads of saffron in hot water for 10 minutes. Fake saffron will quickly bleed out its fake red colour and the strings will disintegrate. However, the real saffron will remain intact. The color from the real saffron will evenly diffuse into the water as it disperses similar to tea. Fourth, you can find out from the taste as well. The test water of the fake saffron will either lack flavor entirely or have a bitter metallic flavor. However, the real saffron will have a strong floral scent. And it will have a floral and earthy and honeyed taste.
- What is saffron tea good for?
According to OrganicFacts, these are some of the health benefits of saffron tea. The most important saffron tea benefits include its likely ability to enhance mood, relieve PMS, enhance skin, improve eyesight, boost memory, reduce the risk of cancer, and protect heart health.
- How is saffron cultivated?
Saffron has bulb-like stems that grow under the soil. So, you cover the bulb with 5-10 centimeter of soil. The Crocus sativus plant grows better in semi-arid regions with warm weather and less rain. It can tolerate light snow.
- When is saffron cultivated?
Cultivation season for saffron is different in various geographies. In Afghanistan and Iran saffron is usually cultivated in March, or September. Saffron can give threads 3-5 years, or 3-5 harvests. Make sure that saffron is at least 2 months under the soil before the first harvest.
- How is saffron harvested?
The process of saffron harvesting is entirely by manual. Saffron is usually harvested during November to December of each year. The Crocus flower has one yellow stamens and three to five red stigmas which are the saffron threads. Early in the morning, get the flower out of the plant. Then, the stigmas must be plucked and dried for at least 12 hours. Finally, they are packaged in different amounts. It is this labour-intensive harvesting process that makes saffron expensive.
- How to store saffron?
Store in a cool dry dark place like a pantry or wine cellar. It is best to keep this product in an airtight container, avoiding excessive light and heat. A simple storage option is to wrap the provided jar with foil to block light exposure.
- What is Heray Spice?
Heray Spice is a farmers co-op based in Chicago, IL and Herat Afghanistan. Our mission is to support local Afghanistan farmers by importing their saffron to the US and international markets and paying them fair-trade value for their spices. Also, helping chefs and home-cooks with high quality Afghani saffron.