Saffron is a golden-colored, smelly stigmas (pollen-bearing structures) of the fall crocus (Crocus sativus), that are dried and used as a spice to flavor ingredients and as a dye to color ingredients and different products. Saffron has a strong, special aroma and a sour flavor which is mostly is used to color and flavor many Mediterranean and Asian dishes, mainly rice and fish, and English, Scandinavian, and Balkan breads. It also is a crucial element in bouillabaisse soup.
Saffron is cultivated primarily in Iran but is also grown in Spain, France, Italy (on the lower spurs of the Apennines Range), and corridor of India. It’s plant structure contains a labour-ferocious crop, the three spots are culled from each flower, spread on servers, and dried over watercolor fires for use as a food flavoring and coloring. A pound (0.45 kilogram) of saffron represents blossoms. Saffron contains 0.5 to 1 percent essential canvas, the top element of which is picrocrocin. The coloring matter in this product is crocin.
During numerous periods, saffron has been really well worth tons extra than its weight in gold; it’s miles nonetheless the maximum high priced spice with inside the world.
Suitable soil for growing saffron
Since saffron pods remain in the ground for a relatively long time (5-8) years, the soil should be light or a mixture of sand and clay so that onions can, in addition to providing food, remain well while meeting specific regional conditions during this period. Therefore, in order for the plant to grow properly and produce a good crop, fertile soils with proper drainage and a pH between 7-8 are necessary.
planting and harvesting situations
Saffron is very low in terms of water requirement and needs to be irrigated 7 times a year. Also, this is the needed amount when other products do not need water. The first irrigation after planting is very important. This watering should be adjusted so that the air is not too hot, because first the leaves turn green and then the flowers appear, which will make it difficult to harvest the flowers. Normally, after the first irrigation of the saffron field, the flowers leave the soil earlier than the leaves. The second irrigation is done 35 days after the first irrigation, if irrigation is done after harvesting the flower, it is called “clean flower”.
Saffron flowers bloom within one to two weeks after the first watering. After the flowers grow, there is a maximum of 3 to 4 days for harvesting, which if not harvested in time, the flowers will fall and the calluses will become brittle. The harvest period usually lasts 20 days.
Drying saffron is done in the following three ways:
The traditional method has the highest aroma and color. On the other hand, although the color that is created in the Spanish method is better and of better quality than the traditional method, but in terms of aroma and having the best scent, the traditional method is better. In the industrial drying method, the oven is used instead of direct sunlight. Among all the countries that produce the highest amount of saffron even in the past years that everything has been industrialized, still traditional ways are used and known for having the best outcome.
High quality saffron elements
Saffron is one of the most sweet-scented and luxury spices in the world known as “Red Gold”. Everyone using this expensive spice is looking for the highest quality one in the world since most of the lower grade types of saffron don’t taste and smell as good as they should do. Although, when buying the saffron, you should consider the factors that would make you sure it has a good quality type to determine you to get the quality in the same level to the money is being paid for this product.
Saffron is derived from stigmas which is a purple flower named “Crocus”. The stigmas of this flower are picked by hand not by machine and dried in open air and under direct sunlight to obtain the best saffron which has a fragrant and also earthy smell, as well as a beautiful reddish-orange color. This expensive spice with its wide range of various usage is used in different industries such as the food, medicinal, and perfume industry. The reason why saffron is so expensive and valuable is that each Crocus flower contains only three stigmas and these stigmas should be picked intentionally by hand is it requires hard work for a long period of time.
We have different types of saffron in terms of their quality and strength. Age is also one of the determining factors of the best quality saffron. The best saffron is mostly consisted of the upper part of the stigma which most of the smell and color is concentrated there. The top quality types of saffron in the world are Iranian, Kashmiri, and Spanish saffron and each one is classified into various grades.
On the other hand, besides these specific classifications, there is an international standard for measuring the quality of saffron. Based on the ISO 3632 international standard, the quality of saffron is measured by three main factors such as color, taste, and scent in the laboratory. Unfortunately, because of similarities in different types there is no accurate information about the grading and quality of most saffron in the market and it makes it harder for consumers to choose the best available type saffron when facing a vast variety of brands from different origins and countries. Therefore, most customers try to rely on their own taste to choose the best saffron. But, it has always been wondered if there is any way to distinguish original and high-quality saffron from a fake one.
Best ways of choosing the best saffron
One famous way to identify the pure and high-quality saffron is by tasting. Saffron itself is somehow a little bitter and doesn’t have any taste. Some racketeer sellers try to add some sugar into saffron stigmas to increase its weight and ultimately its final price. So, if you ever felt a sweetness in your mouth when tasting saffron, make sure that it’s not original. Another way of buying good quality saffron is by determining its color. The original and high quality saffron is dark red and its color won’t change when it is dissolved in water. Finally, the last way for distinguishing the original saffron is by smelling. Best type saffron smells kind of a mixture of honey and alfalfa.
Usage and therapeutic properties
The best use of saffron is in the preparation of food coloring and as a spice. In modern medicine, this product is used to treat insomnia, cancer, anti-flatulence, seizures and depression. Consumption of saffron drink strengthens memory. Also Its flower is used for dyeing wool and silk due to the production of anthocyanin pigments.
Problems of saffron production
Since long period of time and lots of hard work is the necessities of harvesting saffron, many problems are in the way of producing it such as:
1) Special climate needed for growing the best product.
2) In some undeveloped countries it is reported that because of traditional ways of producing saffron and undeveloped equipment the hardship and the price don’t match.
3) As it is a valuable product, counterfeit saffron with the same color and sometimes smell is produced. And therefore, Impossibility of fast and reliable detection of counterfeit saffron without the use of laboratory methods and equipment is a serious issue.
To reduce and control these problems gathering the available information to introduce saffron in general, transmitting the necessary information to farmers, consumers, and saffron producers and conducting the necessary research in various fields, including determining the market research strategy, ways of consumption and increasing it, and conducting research is needed in all countries whether the exporters or the importer ones. More complete information on the production, medicinal and unknown therapeutic properties of saffron is essential.
Physical and mental health benefits of saffron
Saffron is rich in manganese, vitamin C, iron, potassium and vitamin B6. Manganese helps regulate your blood sugar and also helps improve the body’s metabolism and calcium absorption.
Saffron contains more than 150 different compounds. For example, picrocrocin is the main ingredient in its taste. Safrenal brings the aroma of saffron and the crocin in saffron causes the orange color of it. Many of the medicinal properties of this spice are due to the presence of carotenoids and antioxidants in it, which can protect the body against many damages.
In many cases, saffron extract can inhibit the growth of various tumors and in some cases can be used as an anti-cancer drug.
On the other hand, referring to the mental health advantages, research conducted by a group of scientists shows that saffron can improve or prevent the effects of aluminum, including memory loss and neurological disorders. Saffron is an excellent antidepressant drug and makes people lively and lively. It dilutes blood flow and also has an effective role in strengthening memory.
Most saffron productive countries
There are some countries that are known for producing and exporting the most amount of saffron in the world.
Iran is ranked first among these countries that produce and export saffron the most in the world. Since this country has rich soil and areas with cold and arid climate, Iran is the most suitable place for cultivating saffron. It is popular that “Ghaenat” is a very high quality brand in the field of saffron production. More than that, “Gonabad” saffron has a registered trademark from FAO for the traditional cultivation and irrigation methods in producing this product.
Spain is placed the second-largest producer of saffron in the world after Iran. This country is an important exporter of saffron although it produces only 25 tons of this spice which seems to be a small amount.
At the third grade, Afghanistan has produced 18 tons of saffron so far and is rapidly increasing its share in global saffron export industry in the world. According to statistics the 58-million-dollar export market of this popular spice, is an appealing market for foreign investors.
The fourth place is in Kashmir province, India where more than 120 thousand families are working in the saffron industry. This country also imports 11 percent of total saffron production in the world which makes it an important place of saffron trading industry.
Finally, the last grade would be the lands located in the north of Greece where is a suitable place for cultivating saffron. Greece produces about 8 tons of saffron each year that give the value of 9.47 million dollars to this country’s export of saffron.
Exporter and Importer countries
The last worldwide statistics of saffron trading go back to the year 2017 which showed that the top exporters of saffron in the world in are Iran ($ 114 million), Spain ($ 63.2 million), Afghanistan ($ 18.4 million), Greece ($ 6.97 million) and France ($ 6.42 million).
On the other hand, top importers of saffron include Spain ($ 54.7 million), Hong Kong ($ 20.8 million), the United States ($ 18 million), Italy ($ 16.7 million) and India ($ 16.6 million-although in the last years India is counted as one of the most productive land of saffron production).
Among all the saffron importer countries, Oman is the most famous one. Saffron exports to Oman have attracted the attention of many traders. This spice is used in the food, pharmaceutical, health and cosmetic industries in this country. Saffron has compounds such as crocin, picrocrocin and safranal which have antioxidant properties and therefore is used in the production of medicine and Oman as one of the leading countries in medicine industry imports a huge amount of saffron each year.
As a glimpse on regulations on import and export of saffron, There is no problem for travelers to take saffron out of the country. Travelers can carry packaged saffron that is not commercially available.
The permissible amount of saffron departure is 100 grams per passenger. Removing more than this amount is commercial and you will need to obtain a business card. With a business card, you can take the saffron consignment to customs, declare it and obtain an export license. There is no need to pay taxes and customs duties to export saffron.
saffron is known as a sensitive product and a little loss will amount to a huge detriment. Therefore One of the most important purposes of packaging for the export of saffron is to protect the product. Saffron packaging should be such as to protect the quality, quantity and color of this product. choosing the best saffron
Due to the fact that many bacterial, fungal and microbial contaminants in saffron occur after the stage when the packaging is done and until the saffron reaches the consumer, if the saffron is not packaged in a hygienic and standard way, the quality of saffron will not be preserved. Also, protection of the product against rain and dust should be considered in the packaging.