Where to Buy Saffron Threads
The popularity of saffron has been affected by its price in the overseas markets. The global market of saffron is largely controlled by small and medium sized European enterprises. Spanish saffron is the most popularly available category and has the largest markets in USA, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates. A gram of ordinary Spanish saffron now goes for approximately USD 6 in the US market. The price may vary depending on the grade and origin of the saffron strands and which for you are looking to buy. You can buy saffron threads, which normally are a bit cheaper and you can buy saffron powder, which is the saffron you buy for baking. Lately saffron extract has become popular as a diet pill for weight reduction and general wellbeing. You need to be careful when you buy saffron extract though, because there are a lot of companies that has realized the potential of this hype.
Saffron can be sold in two forms. The is one that is carefully hand-picked and dried in the sun. Saffron spice is the most common of all extracts. It is packaged and sold in various sizes depending on the manufacturer. On Amazon, different saffron extracts are available ranging from pure saffron threads to processed powder. Most people prefer the thread form as it is easier to control the flavor that way. The quality of ground saffron is often harder to distinguish for non-native users. Depending on where you are, you can buy saffron online or in food outlets nearby. It is generally expensive, so if it is cheap, it is probably not genuine!
More About Saffron
Saffron is one of the oldest and expensive spices in the world. Regardless of its extensive benefits in medicine and food preparation, Saffron cost has greatly confined its use to traditional cuisines and it has not been explored widely in other continents. Notably, its global production has been reducing over the decades. Further, it faces enormous competition from other readily available and cheaper spices. However, the product is much superior in quality owing to its strong aroma, deep color and distinctive bitter taste.
Native to the cool and cold winters of the Mediterranean environment and popularly cultivated in Greece, Saffron is the most expensive and uniquely scented spice in the world. Saffron is derived from the saffron crocus flower of the Crocus sativus L. plant. It can grow in marginal areas due to its unique agronomic and physiological attributes. From time immemorial, the herb’s flowers have been used as a spice, dye, cosmetics ingredients and for medicinal purposes. However, nowadays, it is almost exclusively used for culinary purposes. Picking of the flower stigmas requires careful handling and extraction and is therefore best done by hand. Approximately 250,000 stigmas produce just about a half a kilo of saffron. Likewise, only a small amount of it is required when cooking to achieve the desired taste and aroma.
Categories of Saffron
Saffron is available in differing strengths and quality. Strength is determined by the style picked together with the stigma of the saffron flower; this is because the aroma and color is found in the stigma. Essentially, the more the style picked, the less the strength of the saffron. The saffron threads (style and stigma) are collected and dried and used as food seasoning. Saffron is sold in various grades depending on its strength and quality. The major categories include Iranian saffron, Spanish saffron and Kashmir saffron. Sargol’ is the strongest grade of the Iranian category, with deep aroma and coloring. Coupe’ the Spanish equivalent of Sargol contains only stigmas. It can also be categorized according to the existing international ISO 3632 standards that measure levels of crocin(color), picrocrocin (taste) and safran (fragrance). Iranian cultivars tend to produce higher intensities of these measures. Closely intense also, is the Kashmir saffron (also known as Kashmiri kesar) that is the darkest of them all and very rare. The Kashmir kesar price per gram is much higher due to its rarity and is perhaps the best saffron. It is popularly used in India.
Benefits of Saffron
Though many are not aware of the benefits of saffron, it has numerous purposes like most herbaceous plants.
- The most important trait of saffron is the carotenoids it contains that cause Apoptosis in cancer cells. Saffron extracts also act as stimulants and anti-oxidants which help to flush toxins and maintain proper circulation in the body. These properties make it useful in the treatment of ailments like depression, asthma, menstrual disorders, arteriosclerosis, cancer and even sleeping disorders.
- Its unique aroma and definitive grassy taste with a bitter undertone, has made it useful as a culinary herb and is commonly used in the Southwest Asian and some parts of Europe. It can be added to pastries, beef dishes, sweets or liquor.
- It has in the past been used to make dyes due to its yellow red crocin pigment.