Saffron, the oldest and the most steepy spice that originates from the stigmas of the purple crocus sativus plant. Saffron is a piquant, aromatic, and earthy flavored spice that gives everything cooked with it a brilliant yellow tint. As there are very few stigma in any one flower, it takes 150,000 flowers to produce one kilogram of dried saffron .
Each flower only contains three of the yellow orange stigmas that must be hand picked. It is an enduring spice with a globular cormoid which grows up to a height of 15 to 20cm.The corms remains in flower leaf in between the months of October to May. These flowers have both male and female organs (hermaphrodite and are pollinated by Bees and butterflies.
Origin and History
Saffron’s begins with the southern Europe and cultivated in Mediterranean countries, particularly in Spain, Austria, France, Greece, England, Turkey, Iran.
In India, it is cultivated only in Kashmir. The warm sub-tropical climate is the most suitable climate for the saffron flourishment. The annual rainfall in Spain which is very expedient for saffron to grow is below 40cm, as it exhibits the desirable results in dry temperature conditions.
Saffron grows at an elevation of 2000 mtrs. Phenomenon of Photoperiodism leaves a considerable influence on flowering the saffron. For the best results an elucidation of an optimum period of 11 hours is desired.
Variant names used for saffron
Autumn Crocus Kumkuma
Azafron Saffron Crocus
Croci stigma Safran
Crocus sativus Spanish Saffron
Indian Saffron True Saffron
Saffron is a rare herb that gives out the most beautiful color and flavor. There has been number of reasons to use saffron as a spice in culinary recipes, as a herb in medicinal remedies and many more.
Following are some significant grounds to use Saffron:
Uses in Medicinal Remedies
There are numerous medicinal uses of saffron. Saffron is credited with various medicinal properties and is an important ingredient of the Ayurvedic, Unani and western systems of medicine in India.
Saffron heals in Ayurveda
Saffron has always been considered as the most important herb in ayurveda on account of its antipoisonous, cardio tonic, stimulant, livotonic, nervine tonic and sedative properties. Saffron is quite bitter in flavour and it cures head ailments and heals wounds. It is pungent, stops vomiting and gives brightness to the body as well as it cures gastric problems. It serves as anti-venom.
Some of the Ayurvedic magical mantras containing saffron are:
Amritadya taila – Useful in mental disorders.
Dwiharidraditailam- Useful in acne.
Khadiraditaila- Useful in mouth diseases.
Kumkumaditaila- Useful in premature grey hair and acne.
Kumkumadi agada – Useful in insect bites.
Uses in Unani medicine
Saffron has been assured as a herb to improve health problems such as enlargement of liver and infection of urinary bladder and kidneys. As it is anti poisonous and stimulant it is usually given as a medicine in milk to the diseased person for frequent recovery. It is an ingredient of recipes useful in menstrual disorders. It strengthens the heart and is a refrigerant for the brain but it is administered in high doses it makes patient unconscious. It is also considered to be beneficial in specific gynecological ailments. Remanent water after extracting oil from it is also used as medicine. It acts as a diuretic if soaked overnight in water and administered with honey.
Kumkum- Useful in cold, cough and fever.
Kumkum Varti – Useful in conjunctivitis.
Kumkum- Useful in alcoholism.
Kumkumadighrital- Useful in cough, asthma, pthisis, pulmonary tuberculosis diseases.
Kumkumadighritam- Useful in acne, all types of skin diseases.
Kumkumaditailam- Useful in pimples.
Trimiradinashak Yoga – Useful in pterygium, cataract, skin diseases.
Uses in Western medicine
From the sixteenth century Saffron has been used in Western countries for medicinal purposes. In the centuries to follow, it was recommended as an addition to meals to give cheering cardiac medicament effect. In regulated doses, it is said to increase appetite and to ease headaches and hangovers.
In recent decades, it has been recognized as a valuable remedy for catarrhal infections, useful in otitis, melancholia, enlargement of liver and spleen, as a nerve sedative. In regulated doses, it can be used as a safe abortifacient but in higher doses it may be fatal as well. As a drug it is considered astringent, stimulant of metabolism, refrigerant, diuretic, antihusteric, stomachic, antiseptic and spasmodic. Saffron corms have however, very toxic effect when eaten by young animals
Uses in Commercial Purposes
The aromatic magic and its unique color has made saffron the most ideal for various confectionary and bakery preparations. Saffron has always been considered as the main ingredient in fairness creams for improving the complexion as it is believed from the ancient times that “if the ladies take saffron in their diet during pregnancy then they will give birth to fair babies”. It has also been used in Perfumes, deodorants and anti body-odour medicinal soaps because of its unique fragrance. It is one of the crucial ingredients used in preparing products like wine, drinks, jellies, candies, cakes and cookies.
Uses in Religious Purposes
The Buddhists are having traditional beliefs that saffron is the color to devote their worship to lord and to step ahead on the way of “mukti”. The Tibetan monks use the saffron color for the blessings and to pray for peace and prosperity.Saffron somehow represents every religion. As it symbolizes faith and devotional peace in Hindus, a rebellion against prevailing injustice, for Sikhs and connects to muslims as ink through their holy book “Koran”. It is stimulant i.e. it serves to bring power in religious practices. It is used in various temples in India like Tirupati, Somnath, Kashi Vishwnath etc. The devotees receive paste of saffron on their foreheads as a symbol of blessings, good luck and benevolence.Saffron has also been a part of introvert beliefs like tantric psychological activities.
Uses in Culinary Purposes
When buying saffron powder it should be a dark/red orange color, never yellow. Saffron is most extensively used in cuisines, curries and is used quite extensively in Mughal dishes as well as continental. It shows the food being the most expensive spice in world.
Saffron is characterized by a bitter taste and hay-like fragrance. These qualities of saffron can make any food item a special one. The aroma of the spice is described as resembling that of honey and it has grassy and metallic flavors. Saffron is characterized by a bitter taste and a hay-like fragrance.
Quality of Saffron
For the best quality results, highly suitable climatic conditions are awfully demanding for saffron to grow. Cultivation of saffron at high quality needs cool dry climate and inherent soil. The soil must be equilibrated in organic material in order to avoid risks of erosion, and have some depth that allows the water to drain so that the bulb is not damaged.
Quality of the Indian Saffron based on few more important factors such as innovatory knowledge and processing technism. Dark red color of high quality pure Indian saffron has peculiar long silky thread. It has a pleasant aroma with powerful coloring and flavoring capabilities. The two colored parts of saffron flower that is yellow and white lowers the coloring strength of saffron and floral waste where as the red stigmas influence the coloring strength of pure saffron.
Some of the influential elements required for the standard Grade – I saffron are Colorance (color), redolence (aroma) and essence (flavor). More will be the use of these factors higher the quality will be. ISO (Indian Standard Organization) is a worldwide federation to certify the quality standards. The saffron standardization of quality are certified under IS 3632. The minimum quality standard amplitude mandatory for the finest saffron are:
- Stigma filament dimension 1.1,2-3.8 inches;
- Minimum coloring effect 210;
- Moisture percentage (8.9-17.8 percent);
- Mineral materials (5- 9percent);
- Fat (5-8 percent);
- Protein (12-14 percent).