Saffron is known to be one of the most expensive ingredients in the world and adds that wonderful yellow colour to rice dishes but unfortunately the majority of us can’t afford it and, if you’re like me, you end up using turmeric instead.
The Spanish saffron market began to pick up big time back last year. In total 190,000 kilos of the spice was exported by Spain but the Spanish Ministry of Industry revealed that just 1,500 kilos of this was actually grown and harvested in the country. This was due to government guidelines which stipulated that saffron can be labelled as Spanish just as long as it’s processed and packaged there but unfortunately, much of the saffron that’s sent to Spain for processing may be inferior to that actually grown in the country.
Quality inspectors in Spain are now coming under increasing pressure thanks to a UK amateur cook who claimed that what he/she had thought was high grade in fact had a jumble of saffron along with other parts of the crocus and, in some studies undertaken into the contents of some isolated samples, as much as 90% of the saffron had been contaminated. The Food Standards Authority is now investigating the allegation.
According to historians, saffron was first cultivated by Alexander the Great’s troops and today it grows quite happily in dry and arid landscapes so it’s perfect for the climate and topography of Iran, Kashmir and Morocco who have the capability to cultivate a high quality product.
Saffron Walden, Essex
What many of you out there may not be aware of (other than those people from the East Anglia area of the UK) is that saffron was once grown here. The medieval town of Saffron Walden in Essex is the only town in the country to be associated with growing it. It was in demand for the woollen industry for dying and brought considerable wealth to the market town. However, due to climatic change and the fact that saffron was no longer in demand for the woollen industry, the farming community in the area turned from saffron to more productive crops such as malt and other cereal crops as well as livestock..
So, for those of you who can afford this spice to spice up your love life, how do you know you’re getting value for money when you buy saffron? Apparently, you can check its purity by looking at the stalk. Good quality saffron should be trumpet shaped. If you’re still not sure, then test a few stamens in water. Good saffron will remain a shade of red but the poorer quality will soon turn yellow.
However, the most reliable and less arduous methods of finding the purest spice are by word of mouth from other buyers, speaking to specialist spice shops or you could buy it online from http://www.brindisa.com/blog/foods-at-brindisa/know-your-saffron/ which deal in all sorts of Spanish goodies!
Now, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll be wondering what the other two major aphrodisiacs are; the first is Panax Ginseng which you can buy fairly readily at any good health store, and the other is yohimbine which is perhaps not quite so readily available but apparently comes from Nigeria; it’s gained from the bark of an evergreen tree.
But before you take up armed robbery or remortgage the house in order to pay for your saffron stash, bear in mind that over the years we’ve been told that oysters, chocolate, asparagus, truffles and goji berries also have an erotic effect and now seem to have been put on the back boiler so, unless you’re particularly frustrated, I wouldn’t go for the saffron just yet. Who knows … tomorrow we may be informed that researchers have discovered that Big Macs or KFC meals work wonders!! In your dreams!!
Published in: Cooking