Speaking of Iran, the paradise of magical international and authentic food, one cannot exclude saffron from the picture. Here in Iran, you can find more than 400 food and desserts along with various colorful spices and seasonings. However, Persian saffron is an integral spice of every Iranian meal and its fame is increasing around the world. What properties do make it so precious and valuable? What is the history behind it? How it is grown in Iran and what consideration should be made when buying it? These are a few questions that might come to your mind about Persian saffron in the first place. Let us have a closer look at Persian saffron to quench your curiosity for the answer.
Saffron comes from a purple flower called Crocus sativus is known as “saffron crocus”. The flower has three main parts namely stigma, petal, and anther. The stigma is the three-pronged branch part connected together from the bottom. It is the crimson stigma that is separated from the rest of the plant and dried in order to yield real saffron spice.
The saffron consists of three main components namely picrocrocin, crocin, and safranal. Technically speaking, these components are responsible for the sweet-smelling taste and luxurious golden color and aroma.
Persian saffron, famed as “red gold” is a world-famous sweet-smelling ingredient in Iranian cuisine and culinary. The history of Persian saffron reaches far back to the Achaemenid dynasty and since then the Persian saffron has found its place well in Persian food and recipes. It is commonly used as a spice yellow coloring and flavoring staff in Iranian food and sweets. As it’s cultivating and harvesting the plant involves high labor, it is almost an expensive ingredient. This is a sought after ingredient in Iran and other countries for its aromatic flavor as well as its spiritual and medical properties.
Iran is a leading country in producing world saffron due to its suitable climatic condition. Roughly speaking, 92% percent of all the world saffron is produced in Iran (about 390 tons per year), which is a huge number.
Saffron has been known and appreciated as the noblest and most valuable of natural spices for thousands of years. The name of saffron is derived from the Latin name Safranum. cultivation and producing the plant dates back to 3 thousand years ago and it is believed that its origin is Iran.
In ancient times, saffron was used as a remedy for a range of ailments. It was considered to cure stomach upset, plague, and smallpox. It was also used for aesthetic properties. It is said that Cleopatra, the Egyptian queen used a small portion of saffron in her bathtub.
Today, saffron is used in the textile and carpet industry as well as the culinary industry. It is also famous for its medicinal purposes.
The harvesting of saffron is highly labor-intensive work. It takes about a quarter of a million flowers, weighing 100 kilograms to obtain just 1 kilogram of real staff. This is one of the reasons for its high price.
As the flower is very delicate and subtle, there is no need for any machinery, and everything is done by the hand of laborers. It is another reason for the very high price of saffron.
About 90 percent of Persian saffron is cultivated in 55000 hectares of farms in more or less arid areas of Khorasan, which are most suitable for the cultivation of this plant.
The purple flower blossoms over a very short period of a year from September to early December. Over the two weeks, the flower has to be harvested, otherwise, it would lose its quality. During harvesting time, the workers in Iran especially women workers wake up early in the morning and start picking the flower in saffron farms. All the tasks should be done before sunrise. As the flower is a delicate plant and very sensitive to sunrise, therefore it should be harvested before the sunshine.
The flowers are picked up every day or every other day if there is no flower. After picking the flower in a plastic basket, the three branches of stigmas are separated by hand. There should be cautious not to damage the delicate flower when separating the stigmas, that is why it is done all by the hands and the eyes and not machinery. After that, the stigmas are plucked and dried in dark warm rooms for 12 hours before it is sealed and released to the market. There is also a specialized company in Khorasan which tests Persian saffron for its quality and aroma.
The very controversial answer to these questions may be due to the low price of workers in Iran, especially when women are hired as workers. Besides, the very ecological climatic and soil condition of Iran has made it a center of Persian saffron production in the world.
However, Iran is not the only country that produces saffron. Morocco, Spain, Afghanistan, India, Italy, and even America also cultivate the staff. From 2005 to 2006, the amount of saffron produced in other countries was: Greece 4 tons, India 3 tons, Spain less than 1 ton, morocco, Australia, Switzerland, and some other countries altogether 2 tons. Approximately, 170 tons of Persian saffron is exported to forty countries in the world, 70 percent of which goes to Spain and the unites Arab Emirates.
During the last decade, specialized companies and capable enterprises and exports in Iran have set up highly equipped laboratories, research and development units, and processing and packaging procedures conforming to international standards such as HACCP. And now Persian saffron is confirmed by international authorities to be of the highest quality in the world. The Persian saffron export promotion fund has been established as an NGO on the license of trade promotion of the organization’s center of Iran. Its members include exporters and reputable specialists in the field of saffron. The fund activities are aimed toward improvement and guaranteeing the quality of exported products through planning and research and development programs making Persian saffron an amazing property and finding new markets.
Over the centuries, the saffron is used for many purposes. The product is most commonly used in cooking. Iranian use this staff in their daily meal because of its sweet smell and brilliant golden color. Persian saffron is used as a spice in dishes like rice, chicken, bread, tea, poolaki (Persian candy), and many more cuisines.
Other than culinary uses, scientific studies have found a medicinal effect on it. It is helpful to reduce and cure the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, depression, and some other mental diseases. It also helps in preventing and treating the ailments related to the digestive respiratory, central nervous system, and heart problems. Academic research has also shown that the product is effective in lowering blood pressure, acting against blood clotting and fat, increasing the flow of oxygen to tissues, relieving pain and tension, slowing the aging process, and increasing sexual potency. Thus it is no wonder saffron is known as the best plant in the universe as the flower of health.
The use of saffron
To derive the maximum benefit of the product it is recommended to consume 50 milligrams twice a day, which is 100 milligrams per day, 3 grams per month. This amount of saffron costs very little but is advisable to purchase reputable brands that carry standards and health restoration. Extensive research and observations have shown that daily consumption of even 1.5 grams of it for culinary purposes has no side effects on the person at all. Who knows such a tiny spice pack such a punch?
It is also recommended to consume saffron very soon for the optimal flavor and fragrance. Besides, keep in mind to store it in a dry tin container or glass and put it in a cool dark place at room temperature. Saffron is a delicate staff and is sensitive to sunlight and moisture, therefore, don’t store it in the refrigerator or expose it to light. In addition, do not put it in plastic containers.
The saffron may be either of high quality which can be recognized from the adulterated or faked staff by a few easy ways. There are also a few tips to consider before purchasing the staff.
⦁ The shape. Saffron threads or stigmas have a unique shape. They are like long flutes or trumpet shapes. This is an easy give away when buying the staff. The threads start thin and become a trumpet at the top end. There is a possibility that you may not find the old threads easily as they are very subtle and breakable and they may be broken to very small pieces due to packaging and shipping. But if you look hard enough among the threads, you may be able to recognize the trumpet-like threads. It is the testimonial that the staff is a real one.
⦁ Time to release color. Take a pinch of saffron, about one hundred milligrams and pour it in a glass, and then cover it by water. Wait for a few minutes. If your staff is real, the waters turn yellow, while the threads retain its red color. It also has a strong bitter smell. Besides, if the staff turn pale or if the water turns red rapidly, the product is fake. If you find an oily substance on top of the liquid, it means the staff is mixed with something.
⦁ The smell. The third way to tell if the product is real or not is basically the aroma or the smell of it. Saffron aroma is very sweet, bitter, and strong. Sometimes there is no need to open the can or the package. You can simply smell it from outside the can to see how strong the smell of it is. Do the aroma test before purchasing the item. If the smell is not strong enough, it might be an old product or even something else.
⦁ Never purchase the ground or powered staff, because it might be mixed with other things that make it hard to recognize the real stuff.
⦁ There is no need to say that. Always buy from reputable and trustable sources
⦁ If it is not expensive, it is probably not a real product. Good quality comes at the price.
Real and faked saffron
Persian Saffron is a heavenly blessing that came to us from ancient times and our present generation must do everything possible effectively and responsibly to save this heritage.
In this article, we talked about the Saffron and Persian saffron, in particular, its history, uses, cultivation, and consumption. We hope the article was useful and enjoyable for you.