By Naini Setalvad
A few strands of saffron added to a dish elevates it to sublime heights with its fragrance and color, says Naini Setalvad
It is the reddish-orange stigma of of the beautiful purple flower of a variety of the crocus plant. It takes around over 70,000 of these breathtakingly beautiful flowers to produce a single ounce of saffron. Its name comes from the Arabic word zafaran, which means yellow. The spice is obtained from the thread-like stigmas, exactly three of which are present in every flower. It is so fabulously expensive that a hundred dollars would buy less than an ounce of good quality saffron. Fortunately, due to its intense flavoring and coloring power, a tiny pinch suffices in any recipe – bringing it within the reach of the home cook wanting to inject magic into her cuisine through saffron’s exquisite flavor and color.
Apart from its use in cuisine, saffron also has many medicinal benefits. The deep rich color of saffron indicates that it is loaded with antioxidants. These are nature’s boons to those who wish to purify their blood and cleanse themselves at a cellular level. Antioxidants clear out the skin and give luster to the hair and eyes. No wonder that creams claiming to contain saffron are most popular during winter.
Saffron has properties which can strengthen the heart as well as the nervous system. It can also improve appetite and aid digestion. It is therefore a good idea to add a few strands to garnish your rice preparations. Saffron is capable of fighting infections within the body, since it has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. It can combat nosebleed, fatigue, and exhaustion. Cheer up with saffron, as it has antidepressant properties.
Good for health
When afflicted with a cold, cough, or the flu, saffron is an effective medicine. Saffron loosens mucus, thus bringing relief to those suffering from asthma or any other breathing problem. It can regulate the lung function as well. Saffron can be a ‘warming’ food, producing heat in the body. It is therefore exceptionally useful in winter.
Saffron is believed to have aphrodisiac properties, which explains why the bride traditionally offers a glass of kesar milk to the groom on their wedding night. It is also a mild sedative, thus helpful in curing insomnia.
Saffron might help in regulating the menstrual cycle. It may induce childbirth, which is why it is best avoided during pregnancy. However, research shows that saffron is essential for alleviating the side-effects of chemotherapy. Use with discretion as it is known to have heat-inducing properties.
Be careful when you buy saffron. Good quality saffron is expensive, has a deep orange to brownish red color. The redder the strands, the better the quality. Yellow saffron has no curative properties. Choose whole saffron threads over powdered saffron. The threads have a better flavor and the curative qualities are higher. Store it in an airtight container, in a dark, dry, and cool place.
Add a few strands to your soup, broth, pasta, rice, and risotto to enhance the flavor and aroma, and add a beautiful delicate color. Add to cold milk with a little honey for a delicious drink.
1 cup water
2 strands of saffron
1 tsp organic honey
1/2 inch cinnamon stick
Dash of lime juice
• Heat the water with cinnamon and honey
• Take it off the heat and strain it
• When it is still warm add the saffron and a dash of lime
• Drink up!
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