Mystery solved—biologists explain the genetic origins of the saffron crocus

phys.org | 3/12/2019 | Staff
DebraS (Posted by) Level 3
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With a price tag of up to €30,000 per kilogram, saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. Sometimes it even exceeds the price of gold. Its typical aroma is produced by the apocarotenoid Safranal. Saffron is harvested from the flowers of the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus), which blooms solely in autumn. In order to yield one kilogram of saffron, 150,000 to 200,000 flowers must be harvested by hand—skilled pickers can collect 60 to 80 grams per day. Subsequently, the three stigmas of each flower are also separated manually and dried. These threads then constitute the spice saffron. Approximately 200 tonnes of saffron threads are harvested worldwide each year.

For many farmers in Kashmir, India, Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, the production of saffron is the main source of income, since the saffron crocus also thrives in soils that cannot be utilised for agriculture. Even in the vicinity of Dresden, the cultivation of saffron has been recently restored after a centuries-long interruption that began in 1570. These local growers swear by the excellent quality of German saffron. Frost makes the plants more robust and the filaments more fragrant. Over the past millennia, saffron has been used as a spice, dye and as a medicine to treat rheumatism and alcohol addictions. For example, saffron was also used as a painkiller during childbirth and for "lady's malaise." According to Greek mythology, Zeus slept on a bed of saffron. In the 14th century "Saffron War of Balsthal," Swiss merchants were even ambushed and robbed.

Order - Fragrance - Saffron - Threads - Water

In order to preserve the fragrance, saffron should not be cooked for long. It is best to soak the threads in warm water for a few minutes and add them to the dish with the liquid when it is almost finished cooking. An even more intense colour can be obtained...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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