Saffron - what kind of spice is it, use in cooking, useful properties and contraindications

Spicy saffron spice has long been famous for its beneficial properties. It not only gives dishes a unique aroma and taste, but also tones up, rejuvenates the body, is used in many recipes of traditional medicine, is used in cosmetology, ophthalmology (plant extract is added to eye drops), is recognized as a natural aphrodisiac, antidepressant. The features of its application are associated with the chemical composition of the plant, and the high price of spices is due to the complexity of the processes of growing, collecting, and manually processing the raw materials for its manufacture.

What is saffron

Due to its high cost, saffron, world famous for its high cost, is made from the stigmas of flowers of the plant saffron, better known by its Latin name - crocus. This is a flower from the genus of perennial tuberous herbaceous Iris flowers, low, with narrow leaves and tubular single flowers of yellow or blue color. The range of flowering includes the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Central and South Asia.

The rich history of this spice, a wide range of uses, and the complexity of production contribute to increased demand and prices for this product. To get one kilogram of saffron, you need to grow and manually process about 200 thousand plants, because one crocus flower gives only three stigmas, which are used to make spices.

The historical homeland of the spice is the Middle East, the word "saffron" is of Arab origin, translated as "yellow leaf". Oriental priests used the plant in religious rites, in ancient Greece it was considered the strongest aphrodisiac, flower pistils were added to the water before taking a bath, they were strewn with beds. Italian and Swiss merchants originally brought spice to Europe; for some time, Swiss Basel became the center for growing crocuses. Today, about 90% of the global crop is grown in Iran.

Where to use

Saffron is not only an exquisite spice that gives dishes and drinks a rich bitter taste and a strong unusual aroma, although cooking is the most famous area of ​​its application. Since ancient times, grass and flowers of crocus have been used by folk healers, since the plant has a unique chemical composition, which determines a number of its useful healing properties.

From ancient times, there have been known methods of obtaining orange dye from crocus flowers, which was first used to dye fabrics, and in the modern world they are used in food production and the manufacture of expensive hair dyes. Saffron essential oils are used in the preparation of masks for the skin, since the plant contains natural antioxidants with pronounced anti-aging properties.

Cooking Application

The most famous spice is culinary. Spice is used in most cuisines of the world when preparing a wide variety of dishes and drinks. In the East and Asia, these are pilafs or other dishes of rice and peas, as well as drinks based on milk. In Europe, seasoning is added to meat dishes, broths, fish dishes, seafood, vegetable snacks. Spice is used in the confectionery industry to give an interesting taste to sweet pastries and desserts, in the manufacture of cookies, pastries, and cakes.

Saffron in cooking is not only a way of giving an unusual original taste to food. Spice has a preservative effect - the food prepared with its addition preserves excellent taste and nutritional qualities for several days. Spice is also used in the production of alcoholic beverages, to give a variety of liquors and cocktails a subtle specific aroma and original color shade.

Before adding to the prepared dish, saffron threads are slightly fried over high heat for 30-60 seconds, ground into powder, mixed with a teaspoon of water or milk. With this preparation, the aromatic and taste properties of the spice are released more strongly. Combine the spice with other spices is not worth it, add it to the roast, soup and other hot dishes need a couple of minutes before the end of the heat treatment. Saffron powder is added to the dough during the kneading step.

Natural saffron has a pronounced pungent smell, gives the finished dish or drink a slightly bitter aftertaste. It should be added carefully - exceeding the dosage indicated in the recipe can not only ruin pilaf or seafood soup and make it inedible. A single ingestion of more than 2 g of spice causes severe poisoning (if we are talking about real saffron).

Saffron seasoning

It is known that saffron (crocus) is cultivated in Iran, India, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Pakistan and the USA. The most expensive is Indian saffron, called Kashmiri. Two species of Spanish crocus come close to its price, in third place is not as expensive, but no less popular Iranian species. Due to the high price of the spice obtained from the dried stigmas of the flowers of the plant, there are many fakes on the world market of spices. Therefore, it is important to know what a real seasoning looks like and not to overpay a lot of money for its analogues.

The dried stigmas of the pestles of the crocus flower are thin threads of maroon, closer to brown, in color. Imereti saffron, which is made from the stigmas of marigold, and which is often tried to be sold under the guise of Kashmiri saffron, has orange or orange closer to yellow. Natural Indian spice in powder has a dark red color, so they often try to pass it off as turmeric.

In recipes and healing broths, only a few strings of this spice are used. They are enough for the appearance of a characteristic taste and rich color in a dish or infusion. You have acquired a fake if a very small amount of spice is not enough to obtain a tart specific flavor. An overabundance of natural Indian or Iranian seasoning will hopelessly spoil any culinary masterpiece, so you should add it carefully, very little.

Beneficial features

Since time immemorial, spices have been attributed to anti-aging, exciting, strengthening and restoring properties. The powder from the stigmas of crocus is used in cosmetology and folk healing. Regularly adding a small amount of seasoning to your food helps:

  • rejuvenation of skin cells and the whole body;
  • activization of the brain;
  • normalization of the digestive organs;
  • strengthening the vascular system, cleansing the blood;
  • improving the work of the female urogenital system, regulating the menstrual cycle;
  • increased libido;
  • restoring a healthy erection;
  • restoration of vision;
  • normalization of the nervous system.

Thanks to the flavonoids that make up the plant, it has an antioxidant, anti-aging effect. Reception of tinctures or decoctions with the addition of spices frees the body from toxins and toxins, has a beneficial effect on the liver, and relieves general intoxication in food or alcohol poisoning. Infusions made on the basis of the stigmas of crocus cleanse the kidneys and bladder due to the diuretic, choleretic action. Saffron infusion helps with cystitis, menstrual irregularities, severe menstrual pain in women.

Some medications for treating eye diseases include an extract of crocus flowers. In folk medicine, lotions with decoction and the intake of tinctures on the stigmas of a crocus flower inside are recommended in the treatment of about a hundred different diseases, including the prevention and treatment of urolithiasis, malignant tumors. Regular intake of the extract from the stigmas of crocus helps inhibit the growth of cancer cells, especially with liver oncology.

Spice is a natural antidepressant. Eating sweet dishes prepared with the addition of this spice improves mood, contributes to a surge of energy, increases the overall tone of all body systems. Dried stigmas of crocus, doctors recommend brewing boiling water (1 tsp. Powder in a glass of water), drinking one teaspoon three times a day to prevent more than a hundred diseases.

Traditional healers recommend using the extract from the stigmas of crocus in the treatment of conjunctivitis, barley and other inflammation of the ocular conjunctiva. Five crushed saffron threads are combined with rose water until a homogeneous slurry is obtained and compresses are applied with the mixture for 10 minutes twice a day to the sore eye. To prepare a rejuvenating mask for the skin of the face, hands and neck 1 tsp. spices are mixed in equal proportions with fat sour cream, honey, applied to the skin for 20 minutes.

As a means of improving male potency, enhancing sexual desire, saffron is added to meat, fish, and vegetable dishes in combination with ginger, black pepper. From insomnia or headache attacks make lotions with alcohol infusion of stigmas, or inhale the aroma of powder tied in a canvas bag for several minutes. Broths with added spice are rinsed with hair in case of problems with their growth or loss.

Chemical composition

The beneficial properties of the spice are due to the chemical composition of the crocus plant. The original color is given by the content of crocins - water-soluble carotenoids of crocetin. Flavonoid glycoside pyrocrocin and its hydrolysis products add taste and smell to saffron. The spice contains vitamins of groups B, A, C, PP, a complex of minerals (calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, potassium, manganese) and essential oils - saffronol, pinene, terpinene, limonene, cineole, geraniol, linalool. The caloric content of 100 g reaches 315 kcal due to the high content of carbohydrates (more than 60%).

Contraindications and harm

Saffron for therapeutic purposes should be used with caution - the spice can have a strong effect on the body, when taken in large quantities, it can cause severe poisoning (single use in an amount of 2 g or more). It is recommended to refrain from using this spice or decoctions based on it:

  • women during pregnancy, breastfeeding;
  • children under the age of 2 years;
  • people with chronic cardiovascular disease;
  • with violations of blood pressure (especially with hypertension);
  • patients with diabetes.

How to replace saffron

The most common analogues of spices are turmeric and safflower. Unscrupulous sellers try to pass off their powder as saffron, but they do not have enough flavor, are characterized by a different shade of orange. Shredded turmeric, in comparison with the powder from the stigmas of crocus, does not have a reddish tint, its orange color is closer to yellow. Safflower has a much less pronounced aroma. To check the saffron threads for authenticity, two pieces are dipped in three liters of water. Natural spice will color the liquid yellow.

How to store

Spice is sensitive to light, high humidity, easily absorbs odors. It is recommended to store saffron powder or stigmas in a sealed opaque container. Storage temperature should not exceed 20 ° C. Dry saffron quickly loses its flavor, so you need to grind the threads or prepare alcohol tincture in a ratio of 1 to 10. If the storage conditions are met, the spice retains its properties for two years, the loss of a specific smell indicates a loss of taste and healing qualities of the spice.

How much is saffron

The value of spice and its high cost is associated with the features of the collection and procurement of plant materials. The most expensive spice in the world is made from hand-picked stigmas of flowers, for the preparation of 1 kg of spice it takes from 170 to 200 kg of raw materials (about 10 kg per 1 ha). The cost of seasoning, depending on the crocus variety, ranges from $ 30,000 (for the most expensive, Kashmiri saffron) to $ 500 for Iranian, more common, per kilogram.

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