Saffron the most expensive herb

Saffron is the name given to the dried stigmata and part of the style of the saffron crocus, traditionally called Crocus sativus, which are harvested, dried, and used for cooking. Saffron is the world’s most expensive herb because it takes 4,000 to 5,000 hand-picked stigmas to produce an ounce of the herb. Saffron has a pleasant spicy smell, and it contains a dye that colors food a distinctive deep golden color. Saffron’s short blooming season, about three weeks in the fall, and its labor-intensive harvest make it the most expensive of the herbs and spices on the market. Each crocus bulb produces two to nine flowers per season, and each flower has three long red-orange stigma branches, attached together at the base.The reported life zone of saffron is 6 to 19 degrees centigrade with an annual precipitation of 0.1 to 1.1 meter and a soil pH of 5.8 to 7.8. The crop grows best in well-drained soils of medium fertility. Planted from early spring to autumn from corms, the plants can re index undisturbed for three to five years before they need to be divided. Blossoming lasts only a few weeks, and flowers must be collected daily as they open in order to remove the stigmas. Saffron contains a volatile oil, picrococin, crocin, a fixed oil, and wax. The volatile oil consists of safranal, oxysafranal, pinene, cineole isophorone, napthalene and other compounds. Extracted saffron is a red-orange color, and has an aromatic odor and a bitter taste. Principal coloring pigments of saffron include crocin, crocetin, carotene, lycopene, zeaxanthin, and picrocrocin. Cooking with Saffron

As a spice it is used for coloring and flavor improving while giving a distinct aroma and a beautiful golden color. The use of saffron as a subtle and aromatic flavouring is now widespread with the trend to use natural products in food. Today saffron is widely used in the food industry as one of the ingredients in dehydrated food stuff, mixes, soups, ice cream and many other processed food products. In Iran a great number of foods are cooked using saffron. But Iranians are not the only nation who appreciate it. Saffron constitutes an irreplaceable condiment in so many international dishes. In Indian and Sub-continent cuisine, saffron has varied uses, a necessity in many dishes, specially used with milk. In the Middle-East it is extensively used in rice, coffee, desserts. In the Arab countries of the Gulf, visitors are welcomed with a drink prepared from coffee, saffron and cardamom. Tea is also prepared with saffron. A refreshing saffron-syrup can be prepared at home. In Spain, “Spanish Paella” and “Zarzuela de Pescado” are recognized throughout the world and any visitor who comes to Spain, will not leave this country without tasting what they call the typical Spanish cuisine.
In Italy, “Rissotto A La Milanese” has become the Italian dish par excellence. In Sweden, there exists a tradition to give greetings to family members and friends and offer them “Saffron Cake”. In Japan, the use of saffron is also increasing. Japanese are great consumers of raw fish, particular about its presentation. Saffron enhances the taste of fish, also giving it a yellow-golden color.
Medicinal uses: This ancient spice is used in homeopathic medicine. It is said to be an effective stimulant, and is used to treat hyperthermia during winter in the snow-clad Himalayas. In books on herbal medicine it is recommended for the treatment of fevers, menstrual problems and hysteria. It is used to calm nerves, promote perspiration, and as an aphrodisiac, although too much can be narcotic. Externally it is applied for bruises, rheumatism and neuralgia.

Hipocrates, Teofasto, Galeno, and other therapists attributed saffron with medical properties, because they considered it as:

· A sedative which combats cough & bronchitis
· Mitigates colic & insomnia
· Calming effect on infants during teething fits.
· Favoring expulsion of gases accumulated in digestive tract.
· An anti-spasmodic
· Favoring digestion and strengthens the function of stomach
Saffron has been used thousand of years by therapists and medical practitioners in herbal formulations. Here is list of a few uses that saffron is put to in medicine as a cure and as a preventive. The list by no means exhaustive and is just to give you an idea of the usefulness of this exotic herb:
· Regulates menstrual disorders
· Used in weakness for rejuvenation
· Excellent against headaches, when applied as a paste to the forehead.
· As an anti-depressant.
· As aphrodisiac for impotency.
· Prolongs vitality.



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