Saturday, May 25, 2013

Saffron the dried stigma

Saffron the dried stigma looking tiny threadlike strands ..
Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly known as the saffron crocus.
Each saffron crocus grows to 20–30 cm (8–12 in) and bears up to four flowers, each with three vivid crimson stigmas, which are each the distal end of a carpel. Together with the styles, or stalks that connect the stigmas to their host plant, the dried stigmas are used mainly in various cuisines as a seasoning and coloring agent. Saffron, long among the world's most costly spices by weight, is native to Greece or Southwest Asia and was first cultivated in Greece.
So what exactly makes saffron the world's most expensive spice?
It has been estimated that approximately one acre of purple crocuses, the flower from which saffron threads are harvested, will yield only one pound of saffron. This is because each crocus flower only produces 3 threads of saffron. About 14,000 threads (actually the dried stigmas of the crocus flower) equals one ounce of saffron, so that should give you an idea of the labor intensive process that goes into harvesting saffron threads.
It is the most expensive spice in the world because of the labor-intensive methods to collect and process it. For it being so very expensive many people seek out less expensive substitutes. These include spices such as paprika, annatto and turmeric.
But most of the spices typically used as a saffron substitute replicate the color of the spice only. There is no spice or combination that can duplicate the flavor and aroma of this spice.
Saffron has many versatile uses aside from flavoring foods. It is used as an aromatic in baths, utilized in perfumes, and can also be used as a dye. Also because its flavor and aromas are powerfully intense, it can be used very sparingly. Saffron is often added to many food products simply as a coloring, such as cheese, soups, rice, and even various alcohols.
Saffron threads can be soaked in water or in hot milk before being infused for the flavor and orange-yellow color to get to the dish.
Just few threads can flavor and color an entire dish. Experts often recommend soaking the strands in very hot milk or water before using them to help release the bright, rich yellow tones and distinctive flavor.

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