Saffron is one of the few things that truly is worth its weight in gold. This product of the crocus flower adds not only pungent and aromatic flavor to foods, but also a beautiful golden color.
Saffron, is the world’s most expensive spice derived from the dried orange-red stigmas of Crocus sativus L. or commonly referred to as Rose of Saffron. It is botanically known as Crocus sativus and belongs to the family Iridaceae.
Originated from the Arabic word Zafaran which means yellow color. In India, it is popularly known as Kesar or Kumkumapoo. It is grown throughout India but extensively in Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. It is among the world’s most costly spices by weight because 1 kg requires about 110,000–170,000 flowers.
Chemical composition of saffron
- Orange or red color results primarily from crocin.
- Aroma-yielding compounds; safranal and picrocrocin.
- Tastes bitter due to picrocrocin (monoterpene aldehyde picrocrocin (C16H26O7)).
- It has a penetrating hay-like odor due to the safranal.
- During harvesting and drying, the heat along with enzymatic action leads to the breakdown of picrocrocin to yield d-glucose and a free safranal.
- The color, flavor, and aroma of it are mainly due to crocin, picrocrocin, and safranal, respectively.
- Other constituents are anthocyanins, flavonoids, vitamins (riboflavin and thiamine), protein (12.0 %), fat (5.0 %), minerals (5.0 %), crude fiber (5.0 %), and sugars (63.0 %) including starch, reducing sugars, pentosans, gums, pectin, and dextrins (%, w/w).
- International Standard System (ISO 3632) is used to determines the grade of saffron by laboratory measurement of Crocin (for color), Picrocrocin (for taste), and Safranal (for fragrance).
Grades of Saffron
Grade I : (finest grade) with the reading of more than 250 is the best grade of saffron which Sargol falls into this category.
Grade II: with the reading of up to 250 with the example of Pushal.
Grade III: with the reading of up to 170.
Marketed in three different shapes; stigma threads, style tips, and powder. High-quality saffron threads will appear dark red. If the yellow style can be observed it certainly adds to the weight and has no culinary benefit. Texture is a sweet-smelling, with a floral-type aroma. Saffron threads must be dry and brittle to touch.
Being costly and precious some fraudulent merchants use fake materials to resemble the natural saffron. For example, it`s been discovered that some use dried corn silk and mix it with saffron extract and sell it as pure saffron.
Some spray the saffron with oil, honey, and sugar syrup just to give more weight and volume. Also, it has been shown that some types of saffron grades in the market are mixed with special fine powders to increase the weight. Mixing of similar materials such as beet, pomegranate fibers, red-dyed silk fibers, safflower, and marigold to the red stigma of saffron are the most common types of fraud in its production.
The aroma and adulterated samples were obtained using an electronic nose system. This system consists of MOS sensors, sensors, and sample containers, three electronic valves, pumps, and oxygen containers.
Types of Saffron
Although Persian Sargol is considered as the premium saffron, there is another variation of Sargol Saffron. If three stigma threads are attached and form a cluster, this type is called Negin. Since the production of Negin is an extremely delicate and precise manual skill, it is the most expensive type of saffron and very limited to offer. The ISO reading of Negin is usually more than 270.
Sargol (All Red)
This grade consists of ONLY dark red stigma tips and has the highest quality compared to the other types. Sargol is the pure saffron with no broken stand and has the ISO reading of 260-270. Due to the accumulation of saffron`s active components in times, Persian Sargol has a very strong aroma and rich coloring capacity.
Pushal saffron is the stigma part of the plant attached to a 1-3 mm style end. According to ISO 3632 system, this type falls into the grade II category that has a color reading of up to 250. Although Pushal does not have Sargol`s pure texture and premium quality, some consumers prefer to purchase Iranian Pushal to be assured of saffron validity and authenticity.
This grade is relatively low strength grade (ISO reading is 70 to 75) and consists of red stigmata plus a large amount of yellow style, presented in a tiny bundle.
This grade consists of only yellow-white styles and has very little aroma and coloring potential.
Although Persian saffron does not spoil or rot, it does lose its aroma and flavor after prolonged storage. The proper storage will preserve it for longer periods. It needs to be wrapped or placed in an airtight dark glass container and kept in a cool place. Following this, it can be stored for almost 6 months. To preserve longer, saffron can be stored for up to 2 years in the freezer.
Crushing the its threads releases its rich aroma and deep yellow color. To prepare Persian saffron anciently, take the desired amount of the threads and put in a mortar with few sugar crystals. Then convert the mixture to a finely ground powder using a pestle. Mix the powder with warm, lukewarm or cold water or white wine to bring out the perfect scent and dye of it and leave it for 20-30 minutes. Using too much of it will create a bitter taste so choose the correct amount for the perfect scenery. Few drops of prepared saffron liquid give more than enough texture and taste to your plate. To cook with this spice, it can be added directly to the ingredients either in powder form, liquid, or even threads.
Processing of saffron
After picking the saffron flowers into sterilized buckets, workers sit in the cleanroom and carefully dis-assemble each flower, removing the red stigmas, which are then dried to become the saffron spice.
It is easy to take out the stigma from the flowers during the early morning while the flower is closed. Peel out to move the petals followed by careful separation of stigma by fingernails. For drying 55 degrees centigrade is required for around one hour or more.
Worker protective gear – to protect the its spice, not the workers – includes an apron and hat to prevent dust and hair from contaminating the final product.
⦁ Used as food additive in dairy products, vegetarian and culinary dishes, and gives pleasant flavor, distinctive color, and delicate aroma.
⦁ cotton candy: Mouthwatering sugar threads in different shapes and sizes, sugar candies have become a favorite confectionery among all cultures.
⦁ Halal beverages (ice tea, saffron/rosewater drink, saffron/mint drink)
⦁ Chicken and meat marinade mix. Various types and mixtures of spices are available to garnish and marinate meat and chicken.
⦁ pudding mix
⦁ Saffron Royal cooking oil
⦁ Saffron nuts: Nuts are everyone’s favorite and combining natural taste and flavor with the scent of saffron is an incentive to ask for more.
Want to know more about wheat varieties? Check out our article!
To know more about this spice click here
Rate this article -
B.Tech Student at NIFTEM (National Institute of Food Technology and Entrepreneurship and Management)