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Information @ a Glance

General

  • Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus), a species of crocus in the family Iridaceae.

  • The domesticated saffron crocus C. sativus is an autumn-flowering perennial plant unknown in the wild, and is a sterile triploid mutant of the eastern Mediterranean autumn-flowering Crocus cartwrightianus.

  • Saffron, which has for decades been the world's most expensive spice by weight.

  • Saffron is characterised by a bitter taste and an iodoform- or hay-like fragrance; these are caused by the chemicals picrocrocin and safranal.

  • Saffron contains more than 150 volatile and aroma-yielding compounds. It also has many nonvolatile active components, many of which are carotenoids, including zeaxanthin, lycopene, and various α- and β-carotenes.

  • Saffron types are graded by quality according to laboratory measurements of such characteristics as crocin (colour), picrocrocin (taste), and safranal (fragrance) content.

Cultivation

  • Saffron plants grow best in strong and direct sunlight, and fare poorly in shady conditions.

  • The plant can tolerate cold winters, surviving frosts as cold as −10 °C (14 °F) and short periods of snow cover.

  • Planting depth and corm spacing along with climate are both critical factors impacting plant yields.

  • Saffron crocuses grow best in friable, loose, low-density, well-watered, and well-drained clay-calcareous soils with high organic content.

Process

  • The extracts of stigmas of saffron flower are currently obtained by a complicated, slow and expensive proceeding by means of leaching and evaporation, which increases the price of the final product.

  • Presently, due to the rise in the cost of manufacturing, manipulation, and distribution of saffron, the commercialization of the stigmas of saffron flower are being replaced by the commercialization of extracts of such stigmas.

  • It is also known that the artificial dyes commonly named “Tartracina” are commonly used, and that these dyes do not have the qualities of the extract obtained from saffron itself, and specifically from the stigmas of its flower.

Market

  • Iran is the world's top producer of the spice. It supplies more than 80 percent of the world's demand with a plantation area of about 36,724 to 41,325 hectares and an annual production of 150 to 170 tons.

  • Iran's saffron production has in the past decade been increasing steadily, most of which is exported overseas, to the United Arab Emirates, Spain, Japan, Turkmenistan, France, Italy and even the US.

  • Popularity of world famous saffron grown in Kashmir is on the decline due partly to lack of protection by the puppet government and partly owing to stiff competition from Iran which now meets 80% of world demand for the commodity.

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