All About Saffron


Saffron Q & A

Q: What is Saffron?

A: Saffron is classified as a spice that is derived from the flower of the Crocus Sativus corm (bulb). It is used to flavour & colour quality food as well as add subtle aroma. Too much saffron in a dish can spoil it. Generally about two – three prong stigma is required per serve.

Q: Why is it so expensive?

A: Planting of the corm, flower picking & processing of the saffron flower is done by hand as well as the packaging which is a very delicate operation. Only the preparation of the raised planting beds is done by machine although the final finishing is also done by hand rake. It is only because of the quality of the finished product and its gourmet and health properties that it is a viable product. Each corm produces only one flower per season. The season is the second month in Autumn – so October in the northern hemisphere and April in Australia. The flower is picked at the premium time – just as it is opening. Too much exposure to the sun will reduce the vitality of the product. It is important that the maximum aroma, flavour and colour of the (finally) dried stigma be maintained

Q: What can you use it for?

A: It is most known for its use in cooking, to add flavour, colour and aroma to a recipe, the most notable being Paella and rice – however too much can spoil a dish. Also it is now becoming well recognised for its medicinal uses. The inter-web lists many advantages of using saffron for health reasons. There is countless other information on the internet about saffron usage.

Q: How do you use it/cook with it?

A: If you are going to use saffron, whether it be for cooking or medicinal purposes, you need to plan to use it. You will not get the full benefit if you do not infuse it in liquid, generally water. If using in a recipe then you need to decide what type of liquid you want to use that will suit, although water is usually the most suitable. You need to be careful not to use too much at once as it can be harmful to a recipe flavour and possibly to personnel health if taking medically.

Q: Are there any health benefits or health risks?

A: We are not medical professionals, but there is an enormous amount of information on the internet about the medicinal benefits, and given the amount of positive information you have to expect most of it to be true.

Q: How do I know if I have the real thing and not an imitation?

A: Saffron can be imitated for colour and appearance as a single thread. The final flavour and aroma cannot be imitated. The appearance of the 3-prong stigma I would think would be difficult to emulate as well. We pride ourselves in maintaining the 3-prong stigma during the processing although that cannot always happen. Another indication is that imitation saffron reaches a deep colour very quickly when infused and after a few minutes actually goes too dark and slightly away from the traditional saffron colour. Quality saffron will colour the infusing liquid fairly slow, finally reaching the deep saffron colour after some hours.

Q: How do you store saffron?

A: Saffron should be stored away from direct sunlight in an airtight container and only opened when necessary to get the product out. The container should not be too big for the amount of product.

Q: Is there an expiry date on saffron? How long can it be stored?

A: If saffron is stored correctly it should last for some years, in a cool dark place and kept in a sealed airtight container.

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