Saffron has a rich, distinctive taste and aroma. It is warm, earthy, and slightly bitter. Nutty and floral notes emerge when it is cooked.
Saffron’s distinctive color makes it easy to identify. Saffron threads are bright red-orange with a golden hue. Each thread is about ten centimeters long and weighs about 0.2 grams. Saffron threads also have a fine, delicate structure that causes the strands to break easily; thus saffron is sold in pre-packaged strands or small bottles.
Saffron is commonly used in European, Indian, North African, and Middle Eastern cuisines. It is often used in rice dishes, seafood dishes, soups, stews, vegetables dishes, breads and cakes.
Saffron consists of the dried stigmas of the flower of Crocus sativus, which is native to Southwest Asia and was cultivated in Greece as long ago as 1400 BCE. The plant’s yellow flowers are hermaphroditic, meaning that they contain both female and male parts. As a result, the flowers can be self-fertilized, or pollinated by bees. The style, or stigma, grows in length as the flower matures, eventually reaching up to 4 inches (10 cm). Because each stigma style only lasts 24 hours, it takes at least 75–100 flowers to produce an ounce of saffron.
The dried stigmas are collected just before dawn on a cool day; later in the morning the flowers open up and their color changes from pale purple to bright yellow. The stigmas are then picked over, cleaned and packed for shipping. Saffron is very delicate and must be protected from light, air and moisture.
Saffron is the dried stigma of a particular species of crocus. It’s kind of purple, and kind of orange.
Saffron threads are pliable and feel a bit like plastic. They’re also easy to break; if you tried to do this with fresh flowers, they would probably be destroyed or at least damaged.
The parts of the flower that aren’t useable include the yellow petals (which can be used as a dye) and the stamens, which look like fuzzy little threads. There is also something called an “aril” which I’m not sure what it’s for; it’s bright yellow and I suppose it could be used as food coloring. The actual saffron threads come in several different grades; “cinnamon” is the highest(best).
Saffron is a spice that, in its dried form, consists of the red stigmas of the crocus plant. It can be used to give a distinctive flavor and hue to food, but it is not widely used.
Saffron is a spice made from the dried stigmas of a type of flower called a crocus. Crocuses are members of the iris family, and look like orange-colored irises. The spices are bright red, and have a strong aroma.
Saffron is a spice. It comes from the flower of a particular kind of red-orange crocus. It is the most expensive spice in the world, by weight. It has been used for centuries as perfume, dye and medicine.
Saffron is also one of the most studied substances in history, with a dossier that would make your eyes glaze over. The Greek botanist Theophrastus described saffron in the fourth century BC, and it has been studied ever since. But two millennia later scientists have still not settled on a complete picture of how it works.
The main thing that they don’t know is how saffron tastes and smells. That’s because no one knows how saffron’s aroma works on us; we do not have the right receptors to smell it, and so we perceive it only indirectly, as an effect on our brains rather than our noses.
This gap between the direct effects of a substance (for example, its flavor when you eat it) and its indirect effects (its “aroma”) is more common than you might think. In fact it’s hard to find any substance that both works on us directly (as food or medicine) and has an aroma we can perceive directly.
Saffron, the dried red stigmas of a particular species of crocus (Crocus sativus), is one of the most valuable spices in the world. It takes tens of thousands of flowers, each handpicked by hand, to make a single pound. It figures prominently in recipes from Spain to India and even appears in some traditional Chinese medicine. You might think it would be impossible to grow saffron in Virginia.
The saffron crocus is native to Southwest Asia but grows quite well in our climate, especially if you are willing to irrigate. It can be grown either from bulbs or from those skinny little corms they sell at garden centers in the fall. The flowers are orange, yellow, or white and grow close together on a spike three to five inches long. The color is concentrated in the three stigmas that protrude from the center of each flower.
And then there’s the aroma: like honey or apricots or some unusual spice, it’s hard to describe exactly but unmistakable when you smell it.
Saffron has been cultivated for millennia, and for good reason: its flavor is subtle and complex, with hints of honey and other rich flavors; it gives food a deep yellow color; and