What is Saffron

What is Saffron?

Saffron may not be as common as other spices but this is also used for many dishes. Interestingly, aside from the rich taste that it adds to cooking it is also known for various medicinal benefits. Yes, the main reason why it is not as staple in households as pepper, cinnamon, garlic powder or others is because this could cost much more.

French may call it safran, Italians call it zafferano and in India it is known as khesa or kesram but these all refer to this reddish colored spice. It has a very strong effect when added to dishes. In fact a pinch of it can turn a pound of rice to golden yellow to red and that small amount can also make any dish burst with rich flavor. Among the common dishes which use this spice include bouillabaisse, pilaf and risotto. The most popular of all is the paella.

Since saffron is expensive, this is often bought by the ounce. On the other hand, for those who need huge amount of this spice, it is also made available by the pound. Originally, this comes from the Mediterranean region. These days, Spain is the primary manufacturer of this spice.

What is Saffron
photo credit: flickr.com/Giullaume Paumier

Where does it come from?

It is actually made up of a flower called crocus that has three stigmas. The flowers are tediously ground to create the spice. It takes about 80,000 flowers just to be able to produce a pound of saffron which also explains why this spice can be costly.

Adding of this spice in many dishes is preferred even by the top chefs because of how it gives a natural yellow-gold hue. There is no doubt that the pleasing color makes the dish even more tempting. Aside from that, it also results to an interesting taste which could make the taste buds rejoice.

The flavor that saffron adds to food is quite unique and can not be achieved by any other spice. It adds a grassy taste which resembles the flavor of fresh vegetables. It also has a hint of sweetness which may make the dish seem like it has a hint of honey. Places which popularly use this spice include Iran, Turkey, Arab countries and Central Asia.

Apart from the benefits of using saffron in various recipes, this is also known for its medicinal benefits. Ancient traditional medicine uses this spice for healing. Before pills and modern medicines were created, this has long been used as cure for common health problems like chronic bronchitis, recurring cough and even stomach problems. It can also combat dental problems like tooth decay. The main reason why this spice can deliver such amazing health benefits is because its natural components can work as antiviral and antibacterial.

Interestingly, this is also present in some of the beauty products these days. Creams, scrubs and masks which contain ground stigma and petals of the flower can nourish dry skin and remove blemishes. Toners and cleansers are helpful in keeping the skin looking young and radiant. There are even hair dyes which use this as an ingredient to restore the luster of the strands.

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Vanjo Merano

I blog about Filipino and Asian food and recipes.