Saffron is a spice obtained from the stigmas of the Crocus sativus flower known as "true saffron." The actual Saffron plant grows to 20–30 cm and produces up to four flowers, each with three deep crimson stigmas. The stems and stigmas are collected and dried to be used mainly in the kitchen as a condiment and dye.
About 150 flowers together yield 1 g of dried saffron pistils; to produce 12 g of dry Saffron, or 72 g wet and recently harvested, 1 kg of flowers is needed. A freshly picked flower has an average yield of 30 mg of fresh Saffron or 7 mg of dry Saffron. It is very important that the stigmas are gently removed by hand so as not to damage them. Depending on the variety of bulbs and climates, the flowers are harvested between October and November.
How to recognize its quality
Saffron is not all of the same quality and intensity of color and aroma. This intensity depends on various factors, including the age of the plant, the climate and soil in which it is grown, the humidity to which it is subjected, and the time at which it is harvested: the optimal time is before dawn.
The classes into which Iranian Saffron is divided are:
- Sargol: product containing only the tips of the red stigmas, this is the class with the most incredible intensity
- Poushal: Product containing red stigmas plus a small amount 1-2mm of yellow styli. This class is characterized by a lower intensity.
- Dasteh/Bunch: Product containing red stigmas plus a greater 3-5mm of yellow styles than the Poushal, presented in small bunches that look like miniature bundles of wheat
- Konj: product containing only yellow styles; in this class, Saffron has a little aroma and little coloring potential.
Saffron can be further categorized according to the international standard ISO 3632 after laboratory measurements of the content of crocin (the molecule responsible for the typical color), picrocrocin (the molecule responsible for taste), and safranal (the component molecule accountable for the aroma).
The saffron market
The international Saffron market is one of the most fraudulent in the world, full of very evident paradoxes and contradictions: this harms both consumers who often find themselves consuming a poor quality or even harmful product and producers who sell whole products at low prices. The stock of their product then undeveloped and not sold pure. For these reasons, Shirin Persia works to maintain a direct bridge between producers and consumers and wants to promote the knowledge and culture of this still so little-known product.
Shirin Persia saffron is sold in the "Dasteh" pistil format and is therefore presented in its entirety "two-tone" with the "Sargol" part, the stigmas, intense red, and the "Konj" part, the stylus, yellowish. This is the only non-counterfeit saffron format in the world and guarantees the total purity of the product.
A bit of history
The first documents that testify the cultivation of saffron date back to the Bronze Age, about 2500 years ago: it is believed that the cultivation of the precious bulb in Iran originated in the Zagros mountains in the western part, while currently the production of Saffron is concentrated in the region of Khorasan in the northeast. The first written records of the use of Saffron as spice date back to the era of the Achaemenid Empire present in Iran from 500 BC. It is easy to hypothesize that the Romans, who used Saffron to flavor game and flavor wines, and as an ingredient in a drug to combat poisons, began to use the spice following contact with the Persian empire and the Middle East. And spread its use in the Mediterranean area.
With the fall of the Roman Empire, the spread of Saffron was greatly reduced. Only around the year 1000 was the cultivation of Crocus sativus reintroduced in Europe by the Arabs through Spain. From that time on, Spain remained the main producer, consumer, and importer of Saffron in Europe.