No products in the cart.
Poem: The Saffron Cookbook by Susanne Fischer-Rizzi
The red stigmas of the saffron crocus, the royal plant gold, and the epitome of preciousness come from the beautiful purple crocus flower. Since ancient times, this luxury commodity has given dishes a golden color and an exceptional taste from the aromatic substance safranal. The precious spice threads are extracted from the blossoms of the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus), which only blooms in autumn - an uphill task: 150,000 to 200,000 flowers have to be picked by hand for one kilogram of saffron.
For many farmers in Mediterranean countries, Kashmir, India, Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, saffron is the main crop. This is because the saffron crocus also thrives on otherwise hardly usable soils. A problem for agricultural use, however, is that the plant can only be propagated by dividing the tubers. The reason: saffron is a triploid hybrid species and thus infertile. This means that all plants cultivated worldwide only come from daughter tubers.
Thus, saffron's genetic diversity is limited, and breeding is impossible. To change this, researchers are trying to learn more about the spice plant's evolutionary history. "The evolutionary roots of saffron have now been a topic of scientific discussion for almost 100 years," write Thomas Schmidt from the Technical University of Dresden and his colleagues. The spice plant descends from only one wild crocus species - Crocus cartwrightianus, which occurs in the Aegean region. According to this, saffron has evolved from the fusion of the genomes of two so-called cytotypes of this wild crocus, which differ slightly on the chromosomal level.
Source: Dresden University of Technology 12 March 2019
In total, saffron has about one hundred and fifty constituents, not all of which have been researched yet. The most important are safranal for flavor, picrocrocin for bitterness, and crocin for color.
Good saffron contains about 0.4% to 1.3% ethereal oils responsible for smell and taste. The important safranal makes up almost 70% of the ethereal oils and determines the typical flavor. Freshly harvested saffron smells sweet of honey and roses; the safranal and, thus, the saffron aroma only develop during drying. The aroma continues to intensify until a good year after harvesting.
Picrocrocin is also present in the ethereal oils. It is called saffron bitter and leaves a bitter taste on the tongue. If there is too much saffron in a dish, you can feel the bitterness of the saffron.
Crocin causes the orange-reddish color of saffron. Saffron contains various carotenoids; the most important carotenoid in saffron is crocin. It is water-soluble and has an enormous coloring power. One part of crocin can color up to 100,000 parts of water, but it is not only responsible for coloring, it also has an antioxidant effect. Crocin thus protects human cells from free radicals and is essential for health applications. Studies have shown that hardly any other plant has such a high content of antioxidants as saffron. When determining the quality of saffron, crocin is the essential value, the higher, the better.
Saffron is the most expensive and counterfeited spice in the world. It is worth paying attention to good quality when buying. Saffron is not called red gold for nothing. Depending on the quality and origin, a kilogram of saffron can be equivalent to a kilogram of gold.We bear the main responsibility in determining the quality.
1. We harvest early in the morning when the flowers are closed so that they are not exposed to the sun as much as possible.
2. We only cut the deep red part of the stigmas, the white, yellow and orange parts have little or no aroma. They only add weight to the scales.
3. Our drying process is an important part that contributes to the quality of the saffron.
4. Our packaging is another important part that contributes to maintaining quality. Our small containers are light-protected and aroma-proof, which we then pack in a pretty cardboard box.
Since 2014, we have been growing saffron on our farm in Armenia. Together with local helpers, we now manage a cultivated area of one hectare. From cultivation to harvest, the women and men from our village help and work on our farm. For many of them, this is the only work they have had for many years - the livelihood they need to continue living in the village.
With saffron, we have a product that combines our work with our passion for Armenia and its people. Armenia is located in the heart of the Caucasus and is the home of Anouch. Almost three million people live in Armenia, one third of the population lives in the capital Yerevan. The economy is still weak, not everyone is able to make a living. Especially in rural areas, people are dependent on new jobs.
The conditions in Armenia are favourable for organic farming, especially in the foothills and mountainous regions of Armenia such as Tavush Province with our village Sarigyugh. Organic agriculture plays a crucial role in Armenia's economy and creates jobs.
With our Sari Safran project we aim to create opportunities and provide support to the locals to access to international organic markets.
Throughout the year
Our ecological crocus sativus blossoms almost simultaneously yearly; like a Swiss watch, the first flowers appear around the 10th of October. The main harvest is then about ten days later. We harvest the precious blossoms every day until around 10 November. In 2022 we planted a new field with about 100’000 onions on one hectare. It is the first field with onions from our production. In newly planted fields, the flowers usually appear somewhat later than those of perennial crops. Each bulb brings 3 - in exceptional cases, up to 5 - flowers to light. These grow overnight, and they are harvested by hand in the early morning hours before the flowers open. Each flower is picked individually and carefully placed in the basket. Not only the picking but also the harvesting of the saffron is pure manual work and needs a lot of tact. Here in Armenia, the women sit at our long tables in the saffron house and cut the threads of the blossom. For one gram of dried saffron, we need about 200 blossoms, which results in about 600 stigmas, so for one kilo of saffron, we harvest 200'000 blossoms! We also use the violet leaves for various purposes.
Immediately after the saffron stigmas are harvested, the drying process takes place. Freshly harvested, they smell sweet of honey, rose petals, and jasmine. The distinctive aroma only develops during the drying and storage process. The saffron gains in flavor during the first year after harvesting. In my experience, saffron can have different flavours, from a more subtle honey flavour to a nutty, smoky aroma. The faster the saffron colours, the drier it is. However, this means that it has been exposed to a strong heat source for a longer period of time during the drying process, which has a negative effect on the overall quality. Sari saffron is dried gently. This keeps the epidermis intact and it takes much longer for the ingredients to be released into the liquid during soaking. However, an intact skin also means that the negative influence of light and oxygen is reduced and thus an optimal shelf life is given. When the saffron threads are mortared, the epidermis is crushed and thus the threads release their ingredients more quickly. Sari saffron is dried slowly and gently, so it can be used for 3-4 years without any problems. However, saffron should be stored in a cool, light-protected and dry place.