When you are talking about spices, saffron is one of the best known and most expensive examples. It has been around for centuries and is believed to have originated in ancient Greece. Saffron is well known for its strong smell and bright red colour, although strangely when used as an additive, it turns food yellow. There are many varieties and grades of this spice so you need to be extremely careful when making any purchases as it is very easy to pay too much. A bit of research will help you greatly if you are thinking of buying some saffron.The main use of this spice is to add flavour and aroma to food when cooking. The smallest amount can make a massive difference to a dish and you will find that a little of this spice can go a very long way if used correctly. It can also last a long time in storage as long as you use an airtight container.
Saffron actually comes from the dried stamens of the crocus plant. The stems have to be picked by hand and are then dried out. This is an extremely laborious process and it’s partly because of this that the price is so high. There are also not many stems per flower so quite a few are needed to produce a reasonable amount of the spice. The actual drying process reduces the amount of saffron produced so it takes a lot of flowers to make a little spice. One of the best ways to gauge the Saffron quality is by its colour. Generally speaking, as the colour of the spice darkens then the quality of the spice gets higher. Be careful to buy from a reputable source as traders have been known to dye the spice to give the impression of a higher grade product. Organic saffron is probably the best but will also command the highest price. You should be safe enough buying from a supermarket but always look for the international standard logo
Many people believe that saffron has many health benefits. There are claims that digestion can be greatly improved and that the spice is a tremendous detoxifying agent. It has also been hailed as a powerful aphrodisiac in many oriental cultures. This may be due to its powerful aroma.
For me, it’s just a flavour enhancement for food though these claims seem to add to the mystery and romance of this spice. Many people grow the crocus flower at home. All you really need is a dry soil and a sunny area in your garden. Some of the varieties have poisonous bulbs so again its worth buying from a reputable vendor, just to be on the safe side. It’s fairly hard to get the stems dried at home and many people just soak them in liquid and use this for cooking. The stems can still be used but make sure you store them in an airtight container or they won’t last long.
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