Thursday, June 16, 2011

Saffron: The Spice of Gold

Saffron is the most expensive spice by weight and it is made up of dried stamens of a crocus plant. The reason why this spice is very expensive is because it is very labor-intensive to harvest. This exotic spice is cultivated in many countries such as Spain, Turkey, Italy, Iran, Greece and the Jammu and Kashmir regions in India. 

 In India, this spice is used in both savory and sweet dishes. A pinch of saffron can enhance the flavor of a rice dish or a sweet dish. It is an indispensable spice in Spain's national dish paella and in Indian cuisine when making biryanis, pulaos and desserts. It gives a golden-yellow hue to any dish. Even though this is a very expensive spice, a little goes a long way.  I usually fry it in a small skillet very quickly over a low flame while shaking the skillet constantly to bring out the maximum flavor. Before using it, saffron is usually soaked in either warm water or milk to extract the maximum flavor. 

Saffron is not only indispensable as a spice for its alluring flavor and aroma but also for its medicinal properties.

 This golden spice has a lot of  disease-preventive health benefits. The active compound in saffron, a-crocin, helps people with memory, depression, whooping cough, and menstrual discomfort. There is some research evidence that saffron is an anti-cancer agent and that it helps lower blood cholesterol. It is also believed to prevent skin tumors, and improve arthritis and eye vision. It has many vital vitamins for better health such as vitamin A, folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin C.

When you look at saffron, don't just think about paella and biryani but look at how it can help you for better health.

Store saffron in a cool dark place. If it is exposed to light, it can oxidize the flavor and color. 

The next time you are drinking tea, don't forget to add a couple of stamens of saffron to your tea.

For more memorable centerpieces, tablescapes, and recipes (including vegetarian, gluten free and vegan recipes), please check out my book, Entertaining From an Ethnic Indian Kitchen, at my website

I am joining
Cindy for Show and Tell,  Foodie Friday,  and How Sweet the Sound.


  1. Good information for those that cook. I do not do much of that anymore.

  2. I have some saffron in my cupboard. A few threads are going in the tea at break time. Thank you for the suggestion.

  3. Hello Komali,
    we cook also with saffron. It is precious, but one need just a little bit.
    Best greetings, Johanna

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