We all know that gold is seen as one of the most valuable metals in the world. The same is said in the case of saffron in the world of spices because saffron is considered as the most expensive spice in the world. As a result, saffron has become the trademark of luxury, and when it is added to any food, the food gives off the aroma and taste of a luxurious dish.
What is Saffron?
The spice saffron is actually the stigma of the flower ‘Saffron crocus’ or most commonly known as ‘Autumn crocus’. In other words, the stigma, which is the spice we know as saffron, is extracted from the saffron crocus.
There are three long stigmas in one flower and the process of extraction is done manually by hand. Immediately after the harvest, the stigmas are dried and then lightly toasted under the charcoal fire. Furthermore, a pound, which is 0.45 kilogram, of saffron represents 75,000 blossoms. Therefore, the labor-intensive harvesting and processing, as well as the quantity of the blossoms, are the main reasons why saffron is labeled as the most expensive spice in the world.
The History Behind Saffron-
Saffron, now, is mainly grown and produced in Iran and Kashmir, the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent. However, nowadays saffron is also cultivated in Spain, Asia Minor, and The Netherlands.
Nonetheless, in early times, it was believed that saffron came from Greece, and was introduced to Cathay by the Mongol invasion. As a result, in ancient Chinese medical manuals, there were mentions of saffron because of its medicinal value. Furthermore, saffron was also mentioned for its medical properties in the 10th-century English leech book, which is also known as old English medical texts.
Apart from its medicinal value, saffron was also recognized for its colouring effect on clothes. For example, in ancient India, a golden-coloured fabric dye was derived from saffron stigmas. In addition to that, Buddha’s priests, after Buddha’s death, made the color of their official robes based on saffron. Therefore, it can be said that saffron dye had shuttled through various cultures and had been used in royal garments.
Besides, Saffron was well-known for its uses in perfumes. For example, in the Song of Solomon 4:14, saffron can be seen among other sweet-smelling herbs. In addition to that, saffron was used as a perfume in Greek and Roman courts, halls, theatres, and baths. Furthermore, the smell of saffron was associated with ‘hetaira’, an ancient Greek female courtesan.
Thus, it can be said that based on its rich history, saffron has been worth much more than its weight in gold and continues to be so which is seen from its position as the most expensive spice in the world.
Taste of Saffron and Its uses in Food-
Saffron is said to have an extremely subtle sweet and somewhat earthy taste. The smell of saffron is fragrant and so, adding a little bit of saffron to any dish gives that dish a layer of depth. Moreover, because of its very subtle and unique taste, the presence of saffron can be identified, even among other spices.
Adding saffron to a dish can give the dish aroma, color, and taste to it. For example, in Indian cuisines such as biryani, various meat curries, sweets, and beverage which as lassi, adding saffron can give them an elegant flavor. In addition to that, in various Western, Persian, and Moroccan cuisines such as meat curries, fish curries, salads, and sweets, adding saffron gives them a bright color, elegant aroma, and luxurious taste.
Therefore, this proves the statement that adding saffron to any dish can bring that dish to a whole new level. For example, even adding a little bit of saffron to a warm glass of milk can enrich the taste of milk and gives it a new depth and elegance. For this reason, in early times, in various cultures, most royal dishes had the habit of adding saffron to enhance those dishes.
Benefits of Saffron-
- Saffron has medicinal values because it contains chemicals that work for various diseases and can act as antioxidants.
- Saffron is commonly used for depression and anxiety. For example, by taking saffron, the symptoms of depression and anxiety can be improved as it can act as an antidepressant.
- Saffron is also commonly used for Alzheimer’s disease, menstrual cramps, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
- Saffron also contains chemicals which have the medicinal value to kill cancer cells and decrease swelling.
To conclude, saffron, also known as the most expensive spice in the world, is an extremely important seasoning in the culinary world not only because of its various usages in sweet and savoury dishes to give them an elegant flavour but also because of its potential health benefits.