- Cooking - candies, liquors, breads, desserts, Spanish paella, and other food from practically every culture. Personally, I love saffron because it is used in many of my favorite Indian dishes.
- Medicinal - cancer suppressant properties, antioxidant, antidepressant, mutation suppressant properties, protects the eyes, and general healing. Saffron has been linked to the healing of over 90 illnesses!
- Other purposes - fabric dye, perfumery, general food coloring.
- Saffron's history reaches back 4000 years.
- One pound of saffron requires 50,000 to 75,000 flowers - the growing area equivalent to a football field.
- One pound of saffron would cost between 500-5000 US dollars depending on the grade (color, taste, and fragrance).
- Plant new bulbs in the very early autumn for bloom around October. To begin with, try planting about 2 dozen.
- Crocus sativus will thrive in full sun, with loose well-watered and well-drained soil (what wouldn't??).
- Bloom period is about 1-2 weeks.
To harvest the precious little threads:
- Be sure to catch the blossoms when they open. Most blooms will last one day and will wilt as the day passes.
- Pluck the 3 orange-red stigmas in the center of the crocus sometime in the mid-morning on a sunny day when the bloom is fully opened.
- Let air dry then store in an air-tight container.
To use the most expensive spice in the world:
- Steep about 1 teaspoon saffron in about 3 teaspoons of hot water or broth for about 2 hours.
- Add both threads and steeping liquid early in the cooking or baking process.
IF, and this is a big IF, a cute little lavender flower doesn't appeal to you, IF you don't have a tiny patch of garden to plant some unassuming bulbs, IF you can't use a little extra color in October, and IF the process of harvesting your own very expensive spice from a very cheap bulb doesn't appeal to you, you could think about buying saffron at the store to try. Here are some tips:
- Buy threads, not powdered saffron. The powder could be cut with turmeric, a cheap spice that imparts a similar color. It may be cheaper, but will require more to be used for the same flavor impact.
- Sometimes saffron is dyed to give that red color cooks want. This is not good. You want to look for the real thing - the saffron thread should be red, but the tips should be slightly lighter in color.
Enjoy the color and fragrance of saffron in your favorite food tonight...