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Saffron, the real one, is also said Crocus sativus, is the yellow touch on Milanese risotto, the very cheap powder that we look for in the supermarket, or that we find exploding with color in markets like the souqs. Let's try to go beyond its color and scent, to know it and exploit it not only with taste, but also with wisdom.
There saffron plant belongs to the family of Iridaceae, is cultivated in Asia Minor and in many countries of the Mediterranean basin where it has its origins, currently we can also find it in Italy, especially in the Marche, Abruzzo and Sardinia. Some crops also exist in Umbria, Tuscany and Basilicata. Even if exported, in its name this plant faithfully retains its origins: "saffron"It derives from the Arabic word"za῾farān”And it is not only precious in the kitchen, even in some medicinal preparations.
Saffron: the plant
There saffron plant, among the iridaceae, is one belonging to the genus Crocus together with other 80, about. It consists of a bulb-tuber with a diameter of around 5 cm but containing as many as 20 gems. There are also the leaves, to "decorate" our Crocus sativus, narrow narrow, but also 35 cm long: they appear just before the flowers and dry around the end of May, until then they accompany the colorful bloom and the birth of new bulbs which usually takes place around March.
The bulbs of the saffron plant they are what interests us most and in particular of the 20 or so that are produced each time, three are the main ones, “specially supervised”, because they will give rise to flowers and leaves. Up to giving us the saffron powder that we appreciate so much. These special gems in a short time the jets develop - about 2 or 3 sprout from each bulb - which in due time emerge from the ground.
Not at all naive, they are wrapped in a white and hard cuticle that protects them allowing them to pierce the earth's crust and then open up and leave free. leaves and flowers to peep. Not just peeking out, but to blossom and spread out in all their dimension, in the open air.
Saffron: the flower
The flower of the saffron it is yellow but above all violet, of an intense violet shown in the 6 petals that compose it. This is what appears, almost only violet, but in truth there is a male part of the flower, and a female one. The first consists of 3 yellow anthers on which the pollen rests, the second, which holds what makes the risotto yellow, is made up of ovary, style and stigmas.
The ovary, at the base of the bulb, is the point from which a long yellow stylus starts which, having covered the entire jet, reaches the base of the flower dividing into 3 long stigmas of intense red color. From the stigmas comes the yellow risotto, the stigmas are that spot of color that explodes between the violet petals.
Not only explosion of colors, apparently, in saffron flower, because the spice that is produced from Crocus sativus contains about 150 volatile aromatic substances. Not only that, as a food it is also noted for the high content of carotenoids thanks to the presence of substances such as Zeaxanthin, Lycopene and many alpha-beta carotenes.
With all this showing off of property, how to do justice to it saffron? Let's focus on what are believed to be the three key compounds. Each of them tells a sensorial characteristic: the crocins, safranal and picrocrocin. I won't let you guess - hard work if you're not an alchemist - but here's what they reveal to us.
L'α-crocin is responsible for the yellow-gold color that saffron gives to food, the safranal it is the component most responsible for the aroma and also has antioxidant properties. Finally the picrocrocin, which has to do with taste, is the element that frees theaglycone and strengthens the bitter taste of saffron. In addition to this trio of the saffron, to remember as the property of this spice, the precious content of vitamins, in particular A, B1 and B2.
Saffron: how to grow it
The reproduction of the Crocus sativus is possible only by cloning the mother bulb, therefore its diffusion is almost linked to human assistance. Will it be in good hands? As a plant itself it has its own preferences: it loves i moderately rainy climates (300-400 mm per year), such as that of Spain and Greece. It's okay even if it rains a little more, like in Kashmir (1500-2000 mm per year).
For growers of saffron, what to absolutely avoid is water stagnation, it is therefore not recommended to undertake a cultivation where the ground is level: it is better to look for even a minimum slope but which avoids swamps and quicksand that the crocus sativus. It is a little cloudy type.
As far as temperatures are concerned, this plant is not particularly cold, it tolerates up to -12 ° C, then i bulbs they begin to show suffering. The presence of snow or periods of frost that are not prolonged are tolerable, but to find out more I recommend reading the article "How to grow saffron" with further and more specific advice.
Saffron uses and contraindications
Despite being rich in carotenoids that reduce cell damage caused by free radicals, it is saffron at the end of the day, and for drying, it is used only in the food and gastronomy sectors. Sometimes as a spice, others as a dye, it certainly has a remarkable effect and has made it famous all over the world through typical dishes of Italian cuisine. Primarily in the Milanese risotto or "yellow risotto". There it is inevitable and unmistakable, and there is no place where its yellow is appreciated.
Once upon a time, before risotto traveled the world taking it with it, it was saffron it was considered in relation to its properties antispasmodics, pain relievers and sedatives. Today the effects of a exaggerated consumption of this spice, I speak of 20 g per day and more, they would seem rather harmful, until death. Without frightening us, let's not abuse the saffron it can cause side effects such as dizziness, numbness and hemorrhagic manifestations from reduction in the number of platelets (thrombocytopenia) and from hypoprothrombinemia (decrease in prothrombin).
For those who want to cultivate saffron - and remember that this plant depends on man to spread it - less than 40 euros to try to make 100 bulbs bloom. You can easily buy a pack from here and then see for yourself how the flower comes from the bulb, the red trident of the stigmas, and then risotto saffron.
Not everyone can want to hoe and cultivate, not everyone can have the time and patience to wait, so here is 1 selected gram of best saffron, selected in the world, pure, 100% genuine and 100% red, free of preservatives and additives. It is a dose of flavor and color that is perfect for vegetarians and vegans too.
Saffron: how to choose it
What it saffron powder is a little better than that in threads, for cooking, and also more comfortable in this “hit and run” world, it's pretty obvious, but how else to choose the best? By best I mean the one with more organlectic properties for the benefit of taste and health. Color, brand, consistency, dosage: too many variables to orient yourself, better read some advice on "How to choose saffron ".
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