Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Wild About Saffron
The most precious and most expensive spice in the world: Saffron.
The Saffron filaments, or threads, are actually the dried stigmas of the saffron flower, "Crocus Sativus Linneaus". Each flower contains only three stigmas. These threads must be picked from each flower by hand, and more than 75,000 of these flowers are needed to produce just one pound of Saffron filaments, making it the world?s most precious spice.
But, because of saffron's strong coloring power and intense flavor, it can be used sparingly. Saffron is used both for its bright orange-yellow color and for its strong, intense flavor and aroma.
Crocus Sativus Linneaus contains crocin, the source of its strong coloring property, bitter-crocin, which offers the distinctive aroma and taste and essential oils which are responsible for its therapeutic properties.
Saffron is available both in filaments and powder, though the long, deep red filaments are usually preferable to the powder as the latter can be easily adulterated.
Today, the greatest saffron producing countries are Greece, Spain, Turkey, Iran, India, and Morocco.
The largest saffron importers are Germany, Italy, U.S.A., Switzerland, U.K., and France.
Greek red saffron or "Crocus", a pure product of the Greek agriculture, is considered the best in the world.
A precious spice, adds an exquisite flavor and color to food and drinks. It is also used in distilleries, dairy products and in numerous other applications.
A miracle of nature with a distinctive aroma and a honey-like taste, Saffron is the world's most expensive and unique in its origin. Saffron is the dried stigmas of the flower crocus.
More than 50,000 of these stigmas are needed to produce just 100 gr of red Saffron.
Greek saffron, has a coloring strength of 256, verified by laboratory reports, which is 45 points higher than the minimum international standard for all saffron.
It was not defined well when saffron cultivation began, but it is believed that this might have happened during Prehistoric Greek times.
The excavations in Knossos, Crete, brought to light some frescoes where saffron is depicted.
The most famous of these frescoes is the "saffron gatherer", where it was depicted that there was a monkey amongst the yellow saffron flowers.
Etymologically, the word crocus has its origin from the Greek word "croci" which means the weft, thread used for weaving on a loom
Mythologically, according to Ovidius, the plant took its name from the youth Crocus, who after witnessing in despair the death of fair Smilax was transformed into this flower.
Known since antiquity, saffron it was one of the most desired and expensive spices of ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Romans for its aroma, color and aphrodisiac properties.
It was quite popular among the Phoenician traders, who carried it wherever they traveled. The ancient Assyrians used saffron for medical purposes.
Hippocrates and other Greek doctors of his time, like Dioskourides and Galinos mention crocus as a drug or a therapeutical herb.
From the writings of Homer who calls dawn, "crocus veil", Aeschylus, Pindaros, and others, we know that the crocus was considered a rare pharmaceutical plant of ancient Greece with unique properties. It is referred throughout ancient history and in the course of many medical writings of the classical Greek and Roman times all the way to the Middle Ages.
Another saffron use in ancient Greece was that of perfumery.
The history of red saffron in modern Greece starts in the 17th century when traders from Kozani, Macedonia, brought the red saffron from Austria.
For 300 years, Greek red saffron is systematically cultivated under the warmth of the Greek sun, in the rich soil of a unique area including many small towns of Kozani in West Macedonia.