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The origins of saffron
The name comes from Za’faran, which means “yellow” in Arabic. Saffron is also sometimes known as red gold. It is the only spice in the world that has never suffered from plummeting prices.
In 2010, 80% of all saffron grown worldwide came from Iran, the first saffron producer in the world.
Other producer countries include Spain, Greece and Kashmir.
Only the upper part (called “stigma”) of the style of the crocus sativus, is used. These stigmas range from 20 to 40 mm in length, depending on plant quality. Saffron is harvested once a year, in the autumn.
It takes about 200,000 stigmas and would take one person nearly 300 hours to obtain a kilo of saffron.
Both picking the flowers and extracting the stigmas are operations performed by hand, flower by flower.
Schwartz markets saffron “in threads” in the UK. We buy pre-packaged saffron in threads from a Spanish subcontractor that gets its supplies from Kashmir, Spain, Morocco and Iran.
Saffron is the most expensive spice, which explains why there have always been attempts to adulterate it. McCormick (Schwartz’s parent company) has worked with other spice companies and government standards boards to develop test procedures that make it possible to detect adulteration—whether through added coloring, gardenia extract, or extraneous matter (e.g. fragments of styles, pollen, bits of plants unrelated to the crocus sativus). Testing is conducted on a systematic basis in order to ensure that only the best-quality saffron is marketed.
Our European laboratory conducts more than 60,000 individual tests on over 9,000 product samples a year. Saffron receives a lot of attention with vigorous analyses made to ensure we offer our consumers a product that meets some of the highest quality standards in the marketplace.
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