Did You Know?
Saffron is used to add a distinct flavour, aroma and colour to both sweet and savoury dishes. This special spice is derived from the red stigmas of a particular crocus flower Crocus sativus, which grows in some of the most inhospitable parts of the world and which have to be hand-picked and harvested with the greatest care.
Only as much as three strands can be collected from each flower at a time, which means 1 gram of saffron takes 150 crocuses to be produced – which it's said to be worth more than its weight in gold.
Saffron is a complex spice, so its flavour can be hard to place. Some liken it to the more commonplace turmeric, while others say it has a floral, sweet taste that balances its mild, bitter bite. There is however, one thing which all can agree on – there's really nothing quite like it. Crushing saffron before steeping it in very hot water releases its distinctive, aromatic essence, and the taste is heightened even further when it's heated up – just be sure not to overdo it, as that can actually result in a weaker flavour.
Saffron works very well with a wide range of herbs and spices, from paprika to rosemary. For a truly authentic paella, try crushing lightly and steeping in a little hot water before adding to rice – this technique works well in risottos too. Saffron features in a wide variety of European dishes – from the French bouillabaisse to the Italian risotto Milanese. Funnily enough, it also works well in desserts – try making saffron sorbet with apricot and hazelnuts.
It may be something of a surprise to learn that saffron was cultivated near England's Essex coast for over 400 years, with the Tudor town of Saffron Walden the heartland for harvest. As one of the world's most prestigious spices, saffron was something of a status symbol in the Middle Ages – and it wasn't long before some opportunistic entrepreneurs started selling counterfeits. The practice became so prolific that it was punishable by death – in 1444, one forger was ordered to be burned at the stake for adulterating the spice.
With something so valuable, even today, it is no surprise that it is still prone to counterfeiting. This is why McCormick developed our own DNA test to be sure of our saffron’s provenance and purity and why we only sell whole threads and avoid inferior powdered saffrons.
Did you know?
- Cultivating saffron is a precise practice – every saffron strand is hand-picked in mid-autumn, and must be harvested at dawn before the crocus flower wilts
- The word Saffron comes from the Arabic 'Za'faran' – meaning 'yellow'
- Typically the deeper the colour, the higher the quality
Energy per 100g: 310 KCal
Protein per 100g: 11.4 g
Carbohydrates per 100g: 61.5 g
Fat per 100g: 5.9 g