Saffron ( Crocus sativus ), illustration
The saffron (from Arabic / Persian زعفران, DMG zaʿfarān , "the yellow", "saffron"), scientific name Crocus sativus , is a type of crocus that flowers purple in autumn. The spice, also known as saffron , is extracted from the stigmas of their flowers (the “styluses”) .
This plant species is a triploid mutant of the Aegean island native Crocus cartwrightianus . Because of the threefold set of chromosomes, it is sterile and can only be propagated vegetatively by tuber division. The root form Crocus cartwrightianus has significantly shorter, but also aromatic stigmas.
Each flower contains a stylus branching out into three stigmas . Only these sweet and aromatic scented pens are used as a spice when dried . To obtain one kilogram of them, you need around 150,000 to 200,000 flowers from a cultivation area of around 10,000 square meters (1 ha); the harvest is purely manual work, a picker manages 60 to 80 grams a day. In addition, saffron only flowers once a year in autumn (and only for a few weeks). That is why saffron is one of the most expensive spices and is also known as "red gold". In retail, you pay between 4 and 30 euros per gram .
The number of chromosomes is 3n = 24, rarely 16.
The saffron plant comes from the iris family and is a perennial species of crocus. The saffron tuber only drifts in autumn and survives in the ground for the rest of the year.
Because of the external similarity of saffron corm with an onion , saffron is often wrongly into the category of bulbs divided, but it is the saffron is a bulbous plant . Accordingly, the saffron bulbs themselves are often just as inappropriately referred to as onions.
The flower of the saffron plant is made up of 6 lilac-colored perigone leaves which open into the flower tube. Every saffron plant produces a light yellow style annually, which is located inside the flower tube. This light yellow stylus divides into three to six 2.5 cm - 4.5 cm long red stigma branches at the top of the flower. These scar branches represent the finished saffron spice after harvest.
Saffron is grown in Afghanistan , Iran , Kashmir , southern France , Spain , Morocco , Greece (around Kozani ), Turkey (in Safranbolu ), Italy ( Sardinia , Abruzzo , Tuscany ) and - again since 2006 and 2007 - in Austria (Pannonian saffron ( Crocus Austriacus ); Wachau saffron). Saffron cultivation has been documented in Italy since the 13th and in Germany since the 15th century. There is a small cultivation area of 18,000 square meters in the Swiss village of Mund , where between 1.5 and 2 kilograms of saffron are harvested per year - depending on the weather and temperatures. Saffron has been grown again in Germany since 2012/13, at the Doctorshof in Venningen (Palatinate), in Saxony near Dresden (Saxen-Safran), at Altenburg Castle (Thuringia) and in Bittenfeld (Baden-Württemberg).
“Around 200 tons of saffron are produced every year. If you judge by production quantities, then Iran comes first with approx. 170 to 180 tons annually. This makes up to 91% of the market share. "
Saffron tastes bitter-tart-hot, which, unlike the typical scent, does not come into play with normal doses. It contains carotenoids , especially crocin , so that dishes flavored with saffron turn an intense golden yellow color. It also contains the bitter substance saffron bitter , from which the aldehyde Safranal , which is responsible for the saffron aroma, is partially formed during drying . Other flavorings include isophorones . Well-known dishes with saffron are bouillabaisse , risotto alla milanese , lussekatter and paella . In Persian cuisine , rice dishes are particularly popular with saffron.
Saffron must be stored in tightly closing metal or glass containers, protected from light and moisture, as the spice quickly fades in the light and the essential oil evaporates relatively easily. Saffron was also used as a coloring agent; the water-soluble dye crocetin is glycosidically bound to the disaccharide gentiobiose in the plant ; this compound is known as crocin (see above). Already Pliny the Elder mentions saffron as a colorant. It was also used to imitate gold writing or to make tin or silver appear like gold . It was also used in mixtures with other pigments or dyes .
In order to preserve the aromatic scent, saffron should not be boiled for long. It is advisable to soak the scarring for a few minutes in a little warm water and to add the liquid to the dish towards the end of the cooking time. An even more intense color is obtained if the saffron threads are freshly ground in a mortar.
Saffron has played an important role in medicine in the Orient for thousands of years. Even today the plant is valued for its medicinal properties and international research is being carried out on saffron extract in particular. Studies have shown a nerve-strengthening effect of saffron extract. They also showed that saffron has a mood-lifting effect in mild to moderate depressive moods , e.g. B. in the context of PMS , (post) menopause and baby blues . The studies came to the conclusion that saffron extract is just as suitable for depressive moods as an antidepressant .
Counterfeit and substitute products
The counterfeiting of saffron is still widespread today: counterfeits can consist of a mixture of turmeric . Saffron threads are also counterfeited, but anyone familiar with the look and smell can tell the difference. A more reliable chemical proof is adding caustic soda to a solution of some “saffron powder”: If it is pure saffron, the solution remains yellow; if it contains turmeric, it becomes cloudy and turns red. This test was already common among spice dealers centuries ago. It is based on the different chemical properties of the colorants contained in saffron and turmeric.
False saffron ( safflower ) is a term for the safflower ( Carthamus tinctorius ), which used for dyeing silk was used. This spice colors the dish weaker than real saffron and does not add its own flavor. The tubular flowers of safflower can be distinguished from the thread-like stigma of saffron with the naked eye. With real saffron, the stigma legs must be about two to three centimeters long, curled in a funnel shape and notched at the top.
To curb counterfeiting and replacement products and to increase consumer safety , are quality criteria defined. Characteristics such as coloring power, aroma concentration (Safranal) and concentration of bitterness (Picrocrocin) are grouped into four categories. In addition to the international ISO standard 3632, there are also national standards.
The other German trivial names Chruogo ( Old High German ), Croc (Old High German), Broze (Old High German), Brugo (Old High German), Gewürzsafran, Kruago (Old High German) exist or existed for saffron (Latin Crocus and in German often synonymous with Krokus ), Saffaran ( Middle High German ), Saffart (Middle High German), Saffaren (Middle High German), Safferain (Middle High German), Safferen (Middle High German), Safferon (Middle High German), Safferntblume ( Bern ), Saffran (Middle High German), Saffrat (Middle High German), Saffrath) ( Oriental saffron (Latin Crocus orientalis ), Safrich ( Swabian ), Schaffner (Middle High German), Seydfarb (Middle High German), Sintvarwe (Old High German), Soffraen (Middle High German) and Suffran (Middle High German).
The use of saffron is attested in frescoes of the Minoan culture on Crete as early as 3,600 years ago; the origin of the species can be localized by plant genetic studies in Attica . Saffron was traded in the Mediterranean area by the Phoenicians , among others , who used it as a medicinal and spice agent. It was already a luxury item in ancient times . There were heavy penalties for forging or cutting saffron.
In the ancient Orient , garments dyed with saffron or at least saffron-yellow were part of the ruler's garb. This special cultural significance was taken up and continued several times in Greek mythology . So you want Iliad of Homer under the couch of According to Zeus and Hera have grown saffron. Saffron-colored clothing is also attested in Greek myths for Dionysus , Jason , the newly born Heracles , but above all for goddesses and rulers.
Homer reported that every asking price for saffron was paid. In the Middle Ages, on the other hand, it was three times as expensive as pepper . In many cultures it was customary to color the wedding veil yellow with saffron. Wealthy Romans sprinkled saffron threads on their wedding beds.
With saffron ointments were medicated patch ( oxycroceum : vinegar and saffron patch) prepared balms and scented oils and flavored dishes, whose intense aroma beside Cicero u. a. Petronius in the Cena Trimalchionis reports: omnes enim placentae omniaque poma etiam minima vexatione contacta coeperunt effundere crocum, et usque ad os molestus umor accidere (“All cakes and all apples, if you touched them only gently, began to spatter saffron water until the unpleasant liquid hit us on our faces. ”). As Pliny the Elder noted, it was used as a medicine and wine additive, and Emperor Heliogabal is said to have preferred to bathe in water mixed with saffron.
When, as part of the Islamic expansion in the early Middle Ages, trade in the Mediterranean came under Arab control, the previous Greek (κρόκος) and Latin (Crocus sativus) names for saffron were replaced by the Arabic “zaʿfarān”, which is also the word for the plant comes from most European languages.
Medieval and modern anecdotes and reports on the intoxicating effects of saffron, which have been found in medical and botanical literature since antiquity, owe the expressions in sacco croci dormivit ("He slept on a saffron sack"), crocum edisse ("Saffron have eaten ”) and the proverbial Le fol na que faire de saffren documented in the French vernacular of the Middle Ages , in its Latin version croco stultus non eget (“ The stupid / madman / fool doesn't need saffron <more> ”). This describes a very exuberant, 'crazy' behavior that is supposed to remind of the person under the influence of high doses of saffron. Writes Peter Lauremberg (1585-1639) in his Apparatus plantarius :
In the 17th century, Johann Ferdinand Hertodt von Todenfeld wrote the Crocologia seu curiosa Croci Regis vegetabilium enucleatio, an extensive work that brings together countless pharmaceutical recipes for the treatment of various diseases from diarrhea and dropsy to hypochondria caused by the saffron plant.
From the 16th century onwards, saffron production became very important in the English Saffron Walden .
At the beginning of the 20th century Austria was the cultivation center of Central Europe. The saffron of the highest quality has also been referred to as Crócus austriacus.
According to the nursery rhyme Backe, Bake Kuchen , saffron is one of seven essential ingredients in a good cake, which it turns yellow. The text goes back to a 15th century “ mus ” recipe with the same description of ingredients.
- Antiquity: Dioscurides 1st century --- Pliny 1st century --- Galen 2nd century
- Arab Middle Ages: Avicenna 11th century --- Constantine 11th century --- Circa instans 12th century --- Pseudo-Serapion 13th century --- Ibn al-Baitar 13th century
- Latin Middle Ages: Konrad von Megenberg 14th century --- Herbarius Moguntinus 1484 --- Garden of Health 1485 --- Hortus sanitatis 1491
- Modern times: Otto Brunfels 1537 --- Hieronymus Bock 1539 --- Leonhart Fuchs 1543 --- Mattioli / Handsch / Camerarius 1586 --- Peter Lauremberg 1632 --- Nicolas Lémery 1675/1754 --- Nicolas Lémery 1699/1721 - - Onomatologia medica completa 1755 --- William Cullen 1789/90 --- Jean-Louis Alibert 1805/05 --- Hecker 1814/15 --- Orfila / Hermbstädt 1815/1819 --- Pereira / Buchheim 1846/48 - - Rademacher 1841/1818 --- Theodor Husemann 1883 --- Bentley / Trimen 1880
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- Homer, Iliad 14.348.
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