is Saffron so expensive?
Saffron is the most expensive spice on the market. The
reason it is so expensive is because it comes from the
saffron crocus bulb (Crocus sativus) which is an autumn
blooming purple flower that originated in Greece. Each
flower only produces 3 stigmas, So it will take about
75,000 crocus flowers to make 1 pound of saffron,
part of the plant is Saffron from?
saffron flower (shown to the right) has 6 purple petals,
3 golden yellow stamens and one red pistil which shows
as 3 stigmas (filaments). It is the dried stigma of
the flower which gives the spice saffron.
Chemistry of Saffron?
have revealed that the color is mainly
due to the degraded carotenoid compounds,
crocin and crocetin the flavor comes from
the carotenoid oxidation products, mainly
safranal and the bitter comes from glucoside
picrocrocin". (See Reference 1)
Saffron contains more
than 150 volatile and aroma-yielding compounds.
It also has many nonvolatile active components,
many of which are carotenoids, including
and various a- and
ß-carotenes. However, saffron's
golden yellow-orange colour is primarily
the result of a-crocin.
This crocin is trans-crocetin di-(ß-D-gentiobiosyl)
ester; it bears the systematic (IUPAC)
name 8,8-diapo-8,8-carotenoic acid. This
means that the crocin underlying saffron's
aroma is a digentiobiose ester of the
carotenoid crocetin. Crocins themselves
are a series of hydrophilic carotenoids
that are either monoglycosyl or diglycosyl
polyene esters of crocetin. Crocetin is
a conjugated polyene dicarboxylic acid
that is hydrophobic, and thus oil-soluble.
When crocetin is esterified with two water-soluble
gentiobioses, which are sugars, a product
results that is itself water-soluble.
The resultant a-crocin is a carotenoid
pigment that may comprise more than 10%
of dry saffron's mass. The two esterified
gentiobioses make a-crocin ideal for colouring
water-based and non-fatty foods such as
Saffron's taste and iodoform-
or hay-like fragrance result from the
safranal. Picrocrocin is a monoterpene
glycoside precursor of safranal. Picrocrocin
has a bitter taste, and is the chemical
most responsible for the taste of saffron.
is a truncated version of the carotenoid zeaxanthin that is
produced via oxidative cleavage, and is the glycoside of the
terpene aldehyde safranal. The reddish-coloured zeaxanthin is,
incidentally, one of the carotenoids naturally present within
the retina of the human eye.
When saffron is dried
after its harvest, the heat, combined
with enzymatic action, splits picrocrocin
to yield D–glucose and a free safranal
Safranal, a volatile oil,
gives saffron much of its distinctive
aroma. Safranal is less bitter than picrocrocin
and may comprise up to 70% of dry saffron's
volatile fraction in some samples.
A second element underlying
saffron's aroma is 2-hydroxy-4,4,6-trimethyl-2,5-cyclohexadien-1-one,
which produces a scent described as saffron,
dried hay-like. Chemists find this is
the most powerful contributor to saffron's
fragrance, despite its presence in a lesser
quantity than safranal.
saffron is highly sensitive to fluctuating pH levels, and rapidly
breaks down chemically in the presence of light and oxidizing
agents. It must, therefore, be stored away in air-tight containers
to minimize contact with atmospheric oxygen. Saffron is somewhat
more resistant to heat.
Quality of Saffron
is not all of the same quality and strength. Strength is related
to several factors including the amount of style picked along
with the red stigma. Age of the saffron is also a factor. More
style included means the saffron is less strong gram for gram,
because the co lour and flavor are concentrated in the red stigmas.
Saffron from Iran, Spain and Kashmir is classified into various
grades according to the relative amounts of red stigma and yellow
styles it contains. Grades of Iranian saffron are: "sargol"
(red stigma tips only, strongest grade), "pushal"
or "pushali" (red stigmas plus some yellow style,
lower strength), "bunch" saffron (red stigmas plus
large amount of yellow style, presented in a tiny bundle like
a miniature wheatsheaf) and "konge" (yellow style
only, claimed to have aroma but with very little, if any, colouring
potential). Grades of Spanish saffron are "coupé"
(the strongest grade, like Iranian sargol), "mancha"
(like Iranian pushal), and in order of further decreasing strength
"rio", "standard" and "sierra"
saffron. The word "mancha" in the Spanish classification
can have two meanings: a general grade of saffron or a very
high quality Spanish-grown saffron from a specific geographical
origin. Real Spanish-grown La Mancha saffron has PDO protected
status and this is displayed on the product packaging. Spanish
growers fought hard for Protected Status because they felt that
imports of Iranian saffron re-packaged in Spain and sold as
"Spanish Mancha saffron" were undermining the genuine
La Mancha brand.
How to Cook
contains more than 150 volatile components giving dishes cooked
with saffron it's unique aroma. Since many of the components
are hydrophobic adding a bit of alcohol (wine) will add to the
release -- It is recommended that 30 minutes soaking time is
needed to release the flavors.
of thumb is to use about three strands a person — or a little
more than half a teaspoon. Too much saffron can add a bitter
taste. Some dishes such as Saffron risotto simply taste better
with larger amounts.
BLOSSOMS AND SAFFRON WITH PASTA -- PACCHERI CON FIORI
DI ZUCCA E ZAFFERANO
||Crocin is the chemical ingredient primarily responsible
for the color of saffron.
||Picrocrocin has a bitter taste, and is the chemical
most responsible for the taste of saffron
||Saffranal is the constituent primarily responsible for
the aroma of saffron.
||This is the primary carotenoid found in tomatoes
||This is the primary carotenoid found in carrots
||Picrocrocin is a truncated version of the carotenoid
zeaxanthin that is produced via oxidative cleavage
An overview on saffron, phytochemicals, and medicinal properties
-- Ahmad Reza Gohari, et. al. - Pharmacogn Rev. 2013 Jan-Jun;
--aroma materials produced by carotenoid degradation
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