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The Essential Guide to Saffron

Otherwise known as "red gold" and well known in cooking, saffron is the world's most expensive spice. Learn more about this mysterious ingredient!

Saffron is mostly grown in a belt of land ranging from Mediterranean in the west to Kashmir in the east. It is a unique crop because each stigma needs to be picked by hand, one by one.

As an object of desire it can also be a victim of fraud and low quality saffron is often traded on international markets, and the specifications for pure saffron are not always respected. So, what is saffron worthy of its name?

Dr. A. Jayathilak, Chairman of the ISO subcommittee ISO/TC 34/SC 7, spices, culinary herbs and condiments expalains that we need to be wary of cheaper alternatives as there are many fake saffron products on the market. The most  important  thing to remember is to use a reputable supplier to ensure the highest quality. Also, brush up on your saffron knowledge to ensure you don't make a mistake!

Interesting Facts and figures

  • Saffron could reach about 30 000 euros/kg
  • About 250,000 flowers are needed for 1 kg of saffron
  • About 5,000kg of crocus bulbs are needed per hectare
  • 1 stigma of saffron weights about 2 mg and each flower has 3 stigmata
  • Iran is the biggest saffron producer in the world with 109 tonnes in 2011

Saffron Cooking Tips:

  1. Heat releases the flavour within saffron's essence so make sure you steep it in a hot water (or broth) before adding to your recipe.
  2. A little goes a long way - make sure you don't overdo it!
  3. Saffron typically suits seafood based dishes and heavy pasta meals such as risotto.
  4. Saffron has a tendency to stain so avoid wooden utensils.
  5. Powered saffron can lose it's flavour so make sure you find good quality brands and do your research.

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