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Saffron is the dried stigmas of the crocus flower. The plants have to be hand harvested and require special handling to extract the orangey red strands.

Saffron has been cultivated by humans for more than 3000 years. The flowers are native to southwest Asia, but today are grown in other parts of the world including the Mediterranean region. It has a long history of medicinal purposes, as it is believed to be high in antioxidants.

Saffron has a sweet hay-like fragrance and adds a bitter taste to dishes. Saffron gives food a rich golden yellow colour, and it is this that makes saffron a sought after ingredient. Turmeric is sometimes used as a substitute for saffron as this also gives a yellow colour, although not as bright. Saffron has long been the world’s most expensive spice by weight.

Saffron is widely used in Arabic, Indian and Mediterranean cuisine, most notably paella in Spain and yellow rice in India. Only a small amount of saffron should be used in dishes, as too much can cause an overpowering, bitter taste. Used sparingly saffron can add a delicate and unique flavour.

Quick Tip: add a few strands to chicken casserole for a Mediterranean alternative.

For more information about Saffron click here.

 

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