Thoughts on Saffron

November 18, 2008 at 5:09 pm Leave a comment

saffran_crocus_sativus_moist Saffron is a spice derived from the dried stigma of the saffron crocus. It is one of the worlds most expensive spices and has had a place in many cultures for more than 3,000 years.

The cultivated saffron crocus C. sativus is unknown in the wild. It was created by artificial selection by growers who wanted long stigmas. Because the saffron crocus is sterile they cannot reproduce without human assistance.

The bulb of the crocus, known as a corm must be dug up, broken apart and replanted. Each corm only survives one season, and reproduces by dividing into ten cormlets from which new plants arise.

Inside each flower is a three-pronged style. Each style ends with a crimson stigma 25–30 mm in length.

Saffron was first documented in the 7th century BC. It is used as a seasoning, fragrance, dye, and medicine. One part saffron to 150,000 parts water will turn the water bright yellow and still have its distinctive flavor.

Cultivation is all done by hand, which explains the cost of the spice. It is estimated to take 14,000 stigmas to produce one ounce of saffron threads. The cultivation of saffron needs an specific climate. The summer months should be hot and dry and the winter cold. The land must be flat and without trees.

The bulbs are sown in June/July and are placed in ridges 20cm deep. Each bulb is 10cm apart. Sowing is done by hand.

Harvesting saffron begins early in the morning by picking the flowers and separating the stigmas. The harvest period is from late September to late December.

Once the stigmas are collected they are placed in a warm, dry room for seven days. In some cases the stigmas are roasted. When the saffron is dry is it packaged and kept away from light and humidity.

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Entry filed under: food.

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