Few spices boast a history as rich and fascinating as saffron. This golden-colored spice played a role in the daily lives of ancient Greeks and Romans and earned mentions in the Bible and other sacred texts. To this day, it’s an important ingredient of many traditional dishes all around the world.
Saffron, a Labor-Intensive Crop
Saffron (scientific name Crocus Sativus) is a purple flower. The spice we know is actually just a part of that flower, the stigma (or stigmata, in plural). There are only three stigmata per flower, so it takes about 75,000 of these flowers to make one pound of spice. In addition, the harvesters do all their work manually. As a result, saffron is a labor-extensive crop that is also the most expensive spice in the world. At some points in history saffron has been worth more than its weight in gold!
Rich Cross-Cultural Heritage
This plant is believed to be native from Asia and nowadays is cultivated in Spain, France, Italy and Iran. Of these, the latter country accounts for 85 percent of the world’s production. The history behind the word “saffron” itself is another testament of its rich cross-cultural heritage. It entered the English language through old French, which in turn took it from Latin, where it arrived from the Arabic za‘farān .
The “Sunshine Spice”
Due to its characteristic shiny color, this plant has also been used as a fabric dye since ancient times. For example, it was used to dye the woolen bolero jackets worn by Minoan women (III and II millennia BC). But least one iconic garment still worn nowadays owes its color to saffron: the robes that some Buddhist monks use, namely the Theravada monks from Southeast Asia.
When it comes to nutrients, this spice contains high levels of antioxidants such as crocin, safranal and kaempferol that may help ward off inflammation. Since it may also improve mood, some call it “the sunshine spice”. Maybe that’s why it’s such an important part of dishes as celebrated as Spanish Paella, Italian Risotto allo Zafferano, French Boullabaisse soup, and Moroccan Tagines.
At Chef Gourmet we believe that, like saffron, every dish tells a fascinating story. Saffron Rice and Shrimps with Coconut Saffron Sauce are part of our enticing array of Gourmet Prepared Meals.
We source fresh ingredients from local suppliers we know and trust. Supporting our communities to create and nurture meaningful relationships with those around us is one of our goals.
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