July 13, 2022

Saffron - spice from stigma

Saffron is a spice made from the stigmas of the fall-flowering plant Crocus sativus, a member of the iris family. The term “saffron” applies to the flower’s thread-like structures called stigma.

The ancient Greeks and Romans used saffron as perfume, and saffron is mentioned in the Chinese materia medica from the 1550s. Today the herbs are dried and used as a spice to flavor foods and as a dye to color foods and other products. It’s now an essential part of some Eastern, Middle Eastern, and European dishes, such as the French bouillabaisse, Spanish paella, Moroccan tagines, and many more dishes.

It can take 75,000 saffron blossoms to produce a single pound of saffron spice. Saffron is largely cultivated in Iran and harvested by hand. It's one of the world's most expensive spices.

Saffron threads are fine and have a yellow tendril on one end and a flute on the other. Ground saffron is red to red-orange in color. Saffron is suitable for vegan, gluten-free, and paleo diets.

Crocin and crocetin are carotenoid pigments responsible for saffron’s red color. Safranal, the main component of Crocus sativus essential oil, is thought to be the main cause of saffron unique odor. Safranal gives saffron its distinct taste and aroma. Research shows that it may help improve your mood, memory, and learning ability, as well as protect human brain cells against oxidative stress. (Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2013 Jan;16(1):12-26)
Saffron - spice from stigma

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