Saffron is one of the oldest and
certainly amongst the world's most expensive spices. It is a dried stigma of
crocus sativus flowers, a small perennial plant, which grows 15 to 25 cm in
height. Each flower consists of three stigmas (female part) and two male
parts (stamen) also called the style. The stigma has a silky thread like
appearance with a dark red color at the top and yellow at the bottom of the
stigma. A bitter taste and an iodoform - or hay - like fragrance
characterize saffron. The flavor, aroma and coloring properties come from
the red part of the stigma.
Different Names of Saffron
Types of Saffron
||Crocus sativus Linn.
Kashmiri saffron is considered to be the world's best saffron for its
distinctive, long and silky threads. The dark red thread of the saffron has
an extraordinary aroma, powerful coloring and flavoring properties.
Iran is the single largest producer of saffron, which is called the Iranian
or Persian Saffron. Iranian saffron is known for its exquisite, delectable
aroma and high coloring capabilities. It has traditionally been grown in the
northeastern region of Iran, known as Khorasan. This place has ideal soil
and climatic condition for the crocus crop.
Iranian Saffron is available in different grades depending upon the part of
the flower and the way it is dried. While, the best grade saffron is
categorised as Sargol (All red), other grades include Pushal (Mancha) and
Daste (Bunches). The sargol grade of saffron consists of only bright red
stigma, which have distinct aroma, flavor and coloring characteristics.
While, Spanish saffron also has its own unique aroma, flavor and coloring
capabilities, it is not as strong as Kashmiri saffron. Kashmiri saffron is
considered to be world's best saffron for its distinctive long, flat, silky
threads with a dark red color, extraordinary aroma, powerful coloring and
flavoring capabilities. The size of the stigmas indicates the inherent
suitability of the soil and climate for the saffron.
Kashmiri saffron is awfully tough to obtain, which makes it the most prized
saffron amongst all other varieties in the world.
Although there are difference of opinions
about the origin of saffron, it is commonly believed to have originally come
from Greece and Asia Minor. As per historical evidence, it was used in
ancient Persia, during the reign of King Solomon (circa 960BC) and was in
great demand by the Phoenicians. Saffron was also used to dye the robes of
Irish Kings and is still used in many religious ceremonies.
The name saffron comes from Arabic, where the spice is known as az-za'fran
that name is often explained to derive from a Semitic root signifying "be
yellow" or "become yellow." Today, while Indian variety of
Kashmiri saffron is considered to be the rare and most expensive of them
all, it is mainly cultivated in Spain and Iran, which together count for
more than 80% of total world production. As per market estimates, the total
yield of saffron is estimated to be 300 tons per year.
Cool dry climate and rich soil with excellent drainage and organic content
provide the ideal environment for saffron cultivation. The flowering period
starts during middle or late October and lasts till mid November. The
flowers are essentially plucked before the crack of dawn, so that the
strands are not exposed to sunlight. The flowers are cleaned and the style
and stigmas are separated from perianth. It needs about 150000 crocus
flowers and 40 man-hours to produce one-kg saffron.
The average composition of commercial grade saffron is as follows: