saffron from Matelica
Saffron is a species of plant from the Iridaceae family (tuberous bulb), the beautiful Crocus sativus flower varies from light lilac to a purple violet. Inside its corolla of petals on the end of a white filament, are three vivid red stigmas or threads – saffron. The threads contain a soluble substance called crocin which gives the yellow hue to our dishes as well as its distinct taste that is loved in kitchens the world over.Saffron, if not adulterated with other additives, is a completely natural product. The harvesting and processing of saffron requires a lot of labour. The same plant flowers more than once and those that are open must be hand-picked without damaging unopened flowers, repeating the operation as the saffron re-flowers. The top part of the pistil or stigma must be removed by hand, then dried and/or reduced to powder. The final amount of saffron obtained from a single flower is tiny. The substance that gives saffron its aroma is called safranal and is used also to aromatize liqueurs. There also exists the so-called ‘bastard saffron’, from the safflower plant (carthamustinctorius), this is often used instead of (and sometimes sold as) saffron, this plant though has neither the aroma nor the sensory qualities of true saffron.
Saffron powder provides about 310 calories per 100gr. Saffron is not only used for culinary purposes, but also for therapeutic uses. The Arabic population was the first to attribute to it aphrodisiac and healing properties defining it a “natural anti-depressive”. It contains many active ingredients which have a beneficial effect on the nervous system responsible for a person’s moods. The antioxidants in the carotenoids, meanwhile, favour increased learning ability. In medical texts dating to ancient Persia benefits to respiratory problems and ulcers of the stomach were highlighted. From a nutritional point of view, saffron is composed of water (12%), fibre (4%), inorganic substances (5%), fats (6%), carbohydrates (64%), and protein (9%). It also contains many minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, iron, magnesium and manganese. Vitamins include vitamin A, many B vitamins and vitamin C, particularly important for bone protection.