Saffron: Expensive, but healthy

Saffron threads

The spice saffron has been considered a luxury item for centuries. The godfather Zeus is said to have spent his nights in a bed of saffron, so it is at least in Greek mythology. Even among the Romans it was custom to distribute saffron threads on the bed during the wedding night.

This ritual used to be a costly affair and even today the spice is still extremely expensive: for a gram of saffron, the price can be up to 14 euros. This is mainly due to his laborious extraction. However, since saffron is indispensable for some dishes and can also have a positive effect on our health, it is worth digging deeper into the bag for the exotic spice.

Ingredients of saffron

Saffron has a bitter-sharp taste, which does not come into play with a normal dosage of the spice. The bitter taste is due to the bitter substance picrocrocin (saffron bitter). When drying, it forms the aldehyde Safranal, which is responsible for the typical saffron taste. In addition to saffron, however, other flavorings, such as isophorone, are included.

The golden yellow color, which take on saffron-spiced dishes, is due to the carotenoid crocin. Due to its intensive coloring, saffron was mainly used in the past to dye a wide variety of materials.

Nutrient content of saffron

100 grams of saffron have around 350 calories (kcal). Most of the spice is made up of carbohydrates (61.5 percent). In addition, water (11.7 percent), protein (11.4 percent), fat (5.9 percent) and fiber (3.9 percent) are available.

In addition, saffron is rich in minerals

  • calcium
  • potassium
  • magnesium
  • iron

In addition, it also contains vitamin C and small amounts of vitamin A.

Saffron has its price

The name saffron comes from Arabic and means "to be yellow". The spice is obtained from the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus), which is found mainly in Asia Minor and in the Mediterranean. More specifically, the stamp threads of the flower are used.

To get one kilogram of saffron requires between 150, 000 and 200, 000 plants. The harvest and processing of the spice can only be done by hand, in one day it brings a picker to about 70 grams.

The high cost of production explains why the spice is so expensive. Depending on the quality, the retail price varies between four and 14 euros per gram. This makes saffron the world's most expensive spice. In addition, the high price of saffron is also due to the fact that the spice can only be harvested once a year, namely in autumn.

5 facts about saffron (infographic)

5 facts about saffron - © ulleo

Health effects of saffron

Saffron is often used for cooking and baking in the kitchen. However, only a few know that saffron can also help with health problems. The spice has been used for centuries as a remedy. It has previously been used for liver and eye diseases, gout and asthma.

In the ancient Greeks saffron was also considered a cure, as it has an antispasmodic effect. So a knife tip saffron is stirred into a glass of milk to relieve menstrual pain. A tea with saffron should also have a calming effect on the stomach: a mixture of peppermint, fennel and lemon balm (one teaspoon each) mixed with three saffron threads should help with nausea and vomiting.

Saffron is beneficial for digestion

In addition, saffron is also said to promote digestion and stimulate the circulation. Some people therefore believe that they lose weight by eating the spice. Scientifically, however, this statement could not yet be confirmed.

Saffron for depression?

The first scientific studies, however, exist on the possible antidepressant effect of saffron. The fact that the spice has a mood-enhancing effect is probably due to the fact that the ingredient safranal increases the serotonin content and the ingredient crocin increases the level of dopamine and norepinephrine in the body. However, detailed studies are still pending here.

Saffron as an intoxicant - the "laughing death"

In spite of its positive effects on our health, one should not exaggerate the consumption of saffron, in larger quantities saffron is namely a dangerous intoxicant. Excessive consumption occurs first a strong laughter, heart palpitations and dizziness. Later, it can lead to hallucinations and paralysis of the central nervous system, which leads to death.

Due to the strong laughter at the beginning of saffron is also referred to as the "happy, laughing death".

Cooking with saffron

If you want to season with saffron in the kitchen, you should first of all pay attention to protect the expensive spice from humidity and light, otherwise saffron will fade and lose its aromatic taste. The best way to keep it in a tightly closable glass or metal container.

But also when cooking, caution is advised: Do not cook the spice too long, otherwise its typical taste evaporates. It is best to soak the saffron threads in a little warm water for only a few minutes and add the liquid to the actual dish at the end.

Delicious recipes with saffron

In the kitchen, there are many delicious recipes with saffron, among the best known dishes include:

  • the Spanish rice dish paella
  • the French fish soup Bouillabaisse
  • the italian risotto alla milanese
  • the Swedish sweet pastry Lussekatt

By the way, saffron is also used in the cosmetics sector, except in the kitchen. For example, it is also contained in certain perfumes or shower baths.

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