In this ultimate guide, first we present the way saffron is provided and harvested.
Then, we would delineate the way to differentiate real and fake saffron.
And finally, the way to identify the best high-quality saffron will be explained.
Saffron is a spice coming from pungent stigmas or pollen-bearing flower structures of the Crocus sativus, which is an autumn crocus.
The flowers of this plant are dried to be used as a flavoring and seasoning ingredient for foods and a dye for coloring foods, cloth and other products.
This spice is used in the Mediterranean and Asian dishes, especially rice or fish, and Scandinavian, English, and Balkan bread.
It has numerous applications in the beauty, medicine, and dye industry too.
Since Saffron crocus needs an exceptional condition to grow, it is not found everywhere.
Saffron is mainly cultivated in Iran, but it can be found in Spain, Italy, and some parts of India too.
The three stigmas of this plant are handpicked from each flower first, then they will be spread on trays, and finally dried over charcoal fires to be used.
As a labor-taking crop, one pound (0.45 kilogram) of this red gold contains 75,000 blossoms.
Saffron has 0.5 to 1 percent essential oil containing picrocrocin. Due to having this component, saffron gives a reddish color.
This golden yellow spice is assumed native to Iran, the Mediterranean area, and Asia.
Still, the saffron crocus has been cultivated for a long time in Iran and Kashmir; then, the Arabs grew it in Spain.
Saffron nicknamed as red gold, is considered one of the most expensive spices in the world.
In India, saffron stigmas were used as a golden water-soluble dye for fabric in ancient times.
When Buddha died, saffron turned to be the official color for his priests' robes.
In many cultures, the saffron dye was used for royal garments.
Saffron is counted as a sweet-smelling herb too.
Ancient people scattered saffron as a perfume in Greek and Roman courts, halls, theatres, sometimes streets, and even baths.
The best parts of the saffron stigma are called sargol and negin since they store all of the stigma's portion of picrocin and Safranal, which are the organic chemical compounds turning saffron into a unique ingredient.
Saffron has a strong and exotic aroma and a sort of bitter taste.
The bitter taste of saffron is due to its Picrocin, the compound that gives saffron its bitter taste, and the floral aroma of saffron is because of its Safranal.
When harvesting original and high-quality saffron, the sargol and negin will be picked by carefully removing each thread to bring the most potent and savory portions of the saffron for the consumer.
Before drying the saffron, this process will ensure that the final product has its unique deep red color.
It is essential to do this step before drying since the final saffron thread is a bit delicate and fragile, and removing the yellow parts is hard to do after drying.
Iran is the biggest and most potent source of saffron production globally and has won first place in saffron production because the origin, cultivation, and first source of saffron spread globally from Iran.
Persian saffron's high quality is completely known to the world.
The labeled saffron can be totally fake, or even it can be real saffron but mixed with added substances.
Corn silk threads, coconut filaments, safflower, even horsehair, or shredded paper can be dyed and sold as saffron.
The fake dye that is used to color fake saffron will disappear quickly, which can be observed with a water test.
Real saffron can be adulterated by mixing fake fillers or materials sprayed to it with water so that it becomes heavier and costlier by weight.
Here, we identified 5 important ways to identify the real high-quality saffron.
The saffron smell is described as a sort of sweetish aroma. Some people found it husky and sweet.
A saffron producer describes the real saffron scent as "a blend of earth, tobacco, vanilla, honey, salty-sweet."
The smell of real saffron is sweet, but interestingly it tastes a bit bitter.
The shape of saffron threads is like a trumpet. There should be a bulge at one end unless it's a fake.
With rubbing real saffron between fingers, the skin turns to be yellow or orange.
There's a good chance of offering fake if the saffron cost is not high.
If you put some original saffron threads in a small bowl of hot water, after 15 minutes, it would turn the water yellow.
This color change process takes about an hour, yet the saffron threads keep their red color.
If the color change happens immediately or gets red or gets no color at all, or if the saffron threads lose their red color, it is not real saffron.
If you mix the original saffron and baking soda and then add some water to them, the substance becomes yellow.
Try not to buy ground saffron.
Your recipe might need the saffron powder, but by buying threads of saffron, you can at least recognize if it is real or fake saffron.
It is somehow impossible to realize if it's original in ground form.
Besides, even if it is real, the saffron powder can have some sort of fillers, including dyed starch, dyed rice flour, or other spices like paprika or turmeric, to increase its weight and fake the price.
When buying saffron online, it is best to buy it in threads and then ground it at home as the safest way for its originality can be recognized.
But saffron powder or ground saffron is available too.
When you buy saffron online, consider in mind that saffron powder can be mixed with fillers.
Whether buying online or not, it is recommended to buy saffron threads.
In a nutshell, saffron is a kind of rare autumn flavoring plant cultivated in particular places.
As a very beneficial substance with many nutritional properties, dying and also flavoring functions, besides beauty and medicinal properties, it costs a high price, among other spices.
There are different ways to distinguish the original saffron from fake saffron.
You can use saffron in your daily diet in small doses to take many health advantages.
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