|More cookery correspondence to ‘usher in’ the first day of Spring:
Can you tell me what are the health benefits of using saffron in food dishes. Plus which is the best brands to buy and how is it prepared to get the best health benefits from it.
Thanks for your letter.
Saffron is a therapeutic plant, and is soothing on the stomach and an antispasmodic. It helps digestion and increases appetite. It also relieves renal colic. In herbal medicine it is used as a drug for flu-like infections, depression, hepatomegaly (enlargement of the liver) and as a sedative. It is also considered that in small quantities it regulates women’s menstruation.
Saffron has been contributed with promoting lower rates of heart disease. The spice is used by traditional healers to alleviate fatigue and exhaustion, as it is believed to work to strengthen the heart and nervous system. It is also known to improve the mood and ‘clear the brain’. Saffron aids in digestion by increasing the appetite. Saffron is high in thiamin and riboflavin.
The strings are usually crushed, soaked or steeped (usually in milk or water for at least 20 minutes), then heated or cooked to release the flavor and color. The infused liquid is then added to the dish.
Saffron quality is determined by its ability to saturate a specific quantity of water with its yellow-red dye. In the laboratory, a photospectometry test is performed to determine this Colouring Strength (110 to 250+). This test specifically looks at crocin (color), and this ultimately determines picrocrocin (taste) and safranal (smell). This international test determines quality as the higher the score, the better the spice quality.
I rate Spanish, Iranian and Kashmiri amongst the best, not necessarily in that order. Spanish saffron, although probably the most famous is not necessarily the best. There is also some lovely ’boutique’ saffron out there, grown in smaller quantities, such as Tasmanian saffron which is grown in the Huon Valley region, and Greek and Italian saffron.
Middle eastern shops sell Iranian saffron, which I rate highly. Always buy saffron in little sealed containers that describe the harvest date etc. There is no such thing as cheap saffron. More saffron information…
Best wishes, Kurma
Posted by Kurma on 1/9/05; 7:31:44 AM