Decoding the Secrets of Buying the Best Saffron

Did you know that saffron is one of the most expensive spices of the world? It is used in a variety of dishes in India. Its application extends to traditional medicine and cosmetics as well. Also, saffron is an important part of many religious ceremonies in India, particularly in Hinduism and Buddhism. However, shopping for saffron can be confusing and overwhelming. As a consumer, it’s important to consider quality, safety, price, and other factors when purchasing this delicate spice.  In this article, we talk about saffron, its benefits, and some consumer tips that can help you in your search for the perfect saffron in the market. 

                                                                                                                         Richa Pande

Saffron cultivation requires specific geographic and climate conditions. This limits its production to specific areas, which contributes to its high cost. Saffron is primarily produced in these countries- Iran, Afghanistan, India and Spain. It’s also cultivated in Morocco and Greece. Saffron cultivation and harvesting is a labour-intensive process that must be done by hand, which makes the production of saffron a time-consuming and expensive process. Also, it is only harvested once a year. This means that there is a limited supply of saffron each year, which drives up the price. It is used in a variety of dishes due to its unique flavour, and aroma. It is also used in traditional medicine and cosmetics due to its potential health benefits. This high demand drives up the price of saffron.  

Saffron has a long and rich history in the Indian state of Kashmir, where it has been cultivated for centuries. Saffron was first introduced to Kashmir by Persian traders in the 11th century, who brought the spice to the region for cultivation. The spice quickly became popular in Kashmir due to its potential health benefits and its use in culinary and religious ceremonies The Mughal emperors, who ruled over Kashmir during the 16th and 17th centuries, were particularly fond of the spice and encouraged its cultivation. Saffron production in Kashmir declined in the 20th century due to factors such as political unrest and the availability of cheaper imports. In recent years, efforts have been made to promote sustainable farming practices and improve the quality of the Kashmiri Saffron. Today, Kashmir is still one of the major producers of saffron in the world, with the spice being a key part of the region’s cultural and culinary heritage.

Saffron is an essential spice in Indian cuisine. Its unique flavour and aroma make it a popular choice in both sweet and savoury dishes. Saffron is used to add colour and flavour to popular dishes like Biryani and Korma. It is added to kheer, and other milk-based recipes such as Lassi, Shrikhand, and Kulfi. It gives these delicacies a beautiful yellow colour and a distinct aroma. Saffron is also a popular ingredient in many Indian sweets and desserts, including Rasmalai, Jalebi, Gulab Jamun, and Kesar Peda. It gives them a rich and exotic flavour.

Saffron in also used to prepare Kashmiri Kahwa, a traditional Kashmiri tea made with green tea leaves, saffron, cardamom, cinnamon and almonds. It is known for its unique taste and aroma and is commonly consumed in the Kashmir as a refreshing beverage. In addition to its delicious flavour, Kashmiri Kahwa is believed to have several health benefits.

Easy recipe to make Kashmiri Kahwa

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons green tea leaves
  • 2-3 strands of saffron
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4-5 cardamom pods
  • 1 tablespoon honey or sugar (optional)
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds

Preparation:

  • In a pan, bring the water to a boil.
  • Add the green tea leaves, saffron, cinnamon stick, and cardamom pods to the boiling water. Lower the heat and let it simmer for 2-3 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and let the tea steep for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add honey or sugar (optional) and stir well.
  • Strain the tea and discard the tea leaves and spices.
  • Serve hot with slivered almonds on top.

Enjoy the delicious Kashmiri kahwa!

Saffron has been used in traditional medicine for centuries due to its various health benefits. Here are some of its potential health benefits.

  • Anti-inflammatory properties: Saffron contains compounds like crocin and safranal, which have anti-inflammatory properties. These compounds can help reduce inflammation in the body, which can be beneficial for conditions such as arthritis and asthma.
  • Antioxidant properties: Saffron is a rich source of antioxidants, which can help protect the body from damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
  • Mood enhancer: Saffron is believed to have mood-enhancing properties and can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • Digestive health: Saffron can aid digestion by increasing the secretion of digestive enzymes, reducing inflammation in the gut, and promoting healthy gut bacteria.
  • Respiratory health: Saffron has been used to treat respiratory problems such as asthma and cough, as it can help relax the airways and reduce inflammation in the respiratory tract.
  • Heart health: Saffron may help improve heart health by reducing cholesterol levels, improving blood circulation, and reducing inflammation in the blood vessels.
  • Immune system booster: Saffron has been shown to boost the immune system and may help prevent infections and illnesses.
  • Eye health: Saffron contains compounds that may help prevent age-related macular degeneration and improve vision.

Skin health: Saffron can help improve skin health by promoting blood circulation, reducing inflammation, and preventing oxidative damage.

Traditional Preparation for Good Skin Health using Saffron, Aloe Vera & Kumkumadi Tailam

  • Soak a few strands of saffron in a tablespoon of milk /distilled water for about 15-20 minutes. This will help extract the beneficial compounds from the saffron.
  • Mix the saffron-infused milk with a tablespoon of aloe vera gel and a few drops of kumkumadi tailam.
  • Apply the mixture onto your face and neck, massaging gently in circular motions.
  • Leave the mixture on for about 20-30 minutes before rinsing off with lukewarm water.
  • Use this mixture 3-4 times a week for best results.

*Note- It is important to note that if you have sensitive skin or are prone to allergies, it is recommended to do a patch test before using any new skincare products or ingredients.

Skin benefits – It hydrates skin, prevents premature aging, and evens out the skin tone and reduces the appearance of pigment.

Buying High-Quality Saffron 

  • Choose  ISO Certified Grade A++ Saffron 

The ISO grading system categorizes saffron into grades based on the levels of crocin, picrocrocin, and safranin present in the spice. Choose Saffron with A++ gradation marked on the label. 

  • Look for the  GI TAG 

Geographical Indication (GI) sign is used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. In India, there’s GI tagging available Kashmiri Saffron. By choosing saffron with Kashmiri saffron GI Tag, you ensure that you aren’t buying adulterated saffron. Buying it also is in economic interests of Indian Saffron producers.

What is Kashmiri Mongra Saffron?

Kashmiri Mongra Saffron is one of the best quality saffron in the world. It has a higher percentage of crocin, the compound responsible for its colour, flavour and aroma, which makes it more potent and flavourful than other varieties of saffron. It is grown in the Kashmir Valley, has a unique climate and soil that is ideal for growing saffron. The region experiences cold winters and mild summers, which is optimal for saffron cultivation. The soil in the Kashmir Valley is also rich in minerals, which helps to enhance the flavour and aroma of the saffron. It is traditionally cultivated using organic methods, without the use of any pesticides or chemical fertilizers. This results in saffron that is pure and free from harmful chemicals.

  • Check Packaging Before Purchasing Saffron

Saffron should be packaged in an airtight container to preserve its quality. Look for saffron that is packaged in a sealed, opaque container to protect it from light and air.

  • Compare Prices

Saffron is a highly valued spice, and its price can vary widely depending on the quality and the seller. Compare prices, and attributes of saffron sold by different sellers to ensure that you are getting a fair price for good quality saffron.

Determining Saffron Adulteration 

Common adulterants- Parts of saffron flowers other than stigma, filaments from other plants, including corn fibres, safflower stigmas, calendula stigmas, pomegranate fruit fibres, filaments from other sources dyed with plant dyes such as beetroot, turmeric powder, and

Test 1

Check for colour and aroma. Good quality saffron should have a bright red colour and a strong, pleasant aroma. If the saffron looks dull or has a weak or unpleasant aroma, it may not be of good quality. Do not buy the same brand again.

 

Test 2 

Put the saffron threads in lukewarm water. If the saffron threads loose the colour rapidly, then it’s adulterated.

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