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A New Chapter for Saffron, by the New York Times

Stashed in: Good Eats!, Plants!, Nutrition!, Botany, Commerce, Spice

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Saffron good?

Hella good.  And valuable.

In Iran, which produces more than 80 percent of the 250 tons produced worldwide each year, saffron is omnipresent, in stews, kebabs, rice dishes, sweets. A recent visit to a Tehran supermarket turned up at least a dozen saffron-infused products, including cotton candy, rock sugar to sweeten tea and sohan, a traditional saffron brittle toffee.

It is often said that saffron is worth its weight in gold because it is so difficult and labor-intensive to cultivate and harvest. For several weeks every fall, the crocus sativus flower blooms.


At that moment, saffron producers throw themselves into the harvest. They pick the flowers early in the morning, and on the same day gently tease the bright red, three-filament stigma from each flower and dry them. It takes about 150,000 flowers to produce a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of saffron.

Wait is it just a spice or does it have nutritional value?

Hella nutritional value:

Saffron contains several plant-derived chemical compounds that are known to have been anti-oxidant, disease preventing, and health promoting properties.

Their flower pistils compose several essential volatile oils, but the most important of them all is safranal which gives saffron its pleasant flavor. Other volatile oils in saffron are cineole, phenethenol, pinene, borneol, geraniol, limonene, p-cymene, linalool, terpinen-4-oil, etc.

This colorful spice has many non-volatile active components; the most important of them is a-crocin, a carotenoid compound, which gives pistils their characteristic golden-yellow color. It also contains other carotenoids, including zea-xanthin, lycopene, a- and ß-carotenes. These are important antioxidants that help protect the human body from oxidant-induced stress, cancers, infections and acts as immune modulators.

The active components in saffron have many therapeutic applications in many traditional medicines as antiseptic, antidepressant, anti-oxidant, digestive, anti-convulsant.

This novel spice is a good source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, selenium, zinc and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese and copper are used by the human body as co-factors for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is essential for red blood cell production and as a co-factor for cytochrome oxidases enzymes.

Additionally, it is also rich in many vital vitamins, including vitamin A, folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin-C that is essential for optimum health.

Wow, I had no idea saffron is so nutritious!

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