It takes 150 crocus flowers to yield just 1gm of aromatic and colourful saffron. Popularly referred to as the sunshine spice, saffron is made by harvesting the stigmas from the crocus flower. Due to it’s delicate nature the stigmas are hand picked, air-dried and it’s no wonder then that saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, even more expensive then gold – gram for gram! Saffron has many uses ranging from medicinal, religious, cosmetic and last but not the least culinary.
Widely used in Persian, Indian, European, Arab and Turkish cuisines, saffron contributes to the yellow- orange colouring, a unique aroma and a floral delicate taste to dishes. Some describe this floral and delicate quality as a metallic honey taste or grassy and sweet. Popular Saffron dishes, many of which are considered as delicacies, include Risotto from Italy, Paella from Spain, Bouillabaisse from France, Biryani and several desserts from the subcontinent as well as many Middle Eastern dishes. In India, saffron is an indispensable ingredient in many recipes including rice, sweets and ice creams providing both colour and a distinctive flavour to many dishes and features in many traditional festive dishes. A common ingredient in Saudi Coffee also known as Al-Qahwa, Saffron is sometimes mixed with other spices to give it a beautiful golden hue.
Saffron is graded and priced according to its strength and colour, Sargol being the most expensive variety – 100% red in colour, followed by Pushall, which is red/ orange in colour, and finally Konge which is yellow in colour and has the lowest grade, strength and colour.