Saffron spice: natural food seasoning and coloring agent

Saffron spice
Saffron spice. Photo by: Tiffany Huggins

Saffron spice is valued for its many medicinal benefits, dating back to the 1600 BC. Saffron spice is also a notable natural coloring and flavoring agent.

Historically, saffron’s strong pigment makes it the dye of choice. It had been used to add colors to the skin, hair, and cloth.

Saffron flowers (w/ stigmas).

Saffron can be described as the aristocrat of all spices and is the most expensive spice in the world in terms of weight. The price of Saffron spice is due in part to the intensive labor that goes into its cultivation and harvesting process. Only three stigmas (strands) grow on a flower. It requires 75,000 flower to produce 225,000 saffron stigmas. This is a single pound of saffron.

Since the flavor is strong, only a small amount of saffron may be required. Saffron is often used in seafood and rice dishes, including bouillabaisse, paella, and risotto. However, Saffron spice can be added to almost any dish. Gourmet chefs at a number of  high-end eco-resorts in Asia and Europe will sprinkle saffron over salads and smoothies.

Saffron growers can work up to a 19-hour shift during reaping season. The process involves a lot of care as the tiny stigmas are plucked by hand from the blooms of the small plants. Then, the spice is dried over heat and is ready for use or exportation. Saffron spice is native to Greece and Southwest Asia. But it is being grown in the Americas and other regions. Today, Iran produces the largest volume of saffron.

Saffron crocus (botanical name: crocus sativus) belongs to the Iridaceae family. Saffron spice is perhaps a sub species of the wild version Crocus cartwrightianus.

There are different varieties of saffron. These include Kashmir Mogra Cream Indian, Aquila, Spanish coupé, and Spanish superior.

  • Kashmir Mogra cream indian —moist, dense, deep red strands.
  • Aquila —some believe that this is finest grade of saffron.
  • Spanish coupé —this is the higher grade of the two Spanish versions of saffron.
  • Spanish superior — this is the most widely available saffron.



Article by: Tiffany Huggins, L’ EcoResorts