EN on Foods

December 2011 Issue

Get Saffron Savvy in the Kitchen

Saffron is harvested from the dried, dark red stigmas of the purple saffron crocus (Crocus sativus L.), a member of the iris family. Its tiny threadlike filaments are so delicate they must be hand harvested. It takes about 80,000 flowers (240,000 stigmas) to produce a pound of saffron, which can cost upward of $2,000. Due to its steep price, saffron has a history of being adulterated with coloring agents like turmeric and safflower to extend and even sometimes replace the expensive ingredient. Three distinct compounds combine to make saffron as healthy as it is valuable. Safranal provides the spice’s pungent odor, picrocrocin its bitter flavor, and crocin its striking color.

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