Saffron is a miracle spice that not only gratifies your taste buds but has amazing health benefits as well. It is one of the expensive commodities owing to the efforts invested in producing a large quantity of this spice. Only 3-4 strands of stigma are collected from a single saffron crocus, thus, thousands of crocus are used to produce an iota of this spice.
Saffron or Kesar is manually harvested from the stigma of the Saffron flowers. The stigma of the crocus contrasts sharply with the flower petals as they are red or bright orange. These flowers bloom for a short time during the autumn months, which makes the spice even more precious.
Therefore, you have to take great care before buying saffron. Due to the uniqueness and the struggle involved in producing this spice, there is a lot of fake saffron sold in the market.
A Brief Guide on Choosing Authentic Saffron
To ensure that the money you spent in buying this precious spice is worth it and you get the best saffron out there, you have to gather some basic knowledge. The crucial factors that will help you decide whether the saffron you are choosing is of the best quality are listed below.
Identifying fresh saffron
Before you go about shopping for saffron threads, make sure you pick the fresh ones. The unique thing that decides whether the saffron is fresh is its long strings. The fresh threads of saffron have maximum vitamin and antioxidant concentrations. The long threads give a refreshing aroma and amazing flavor. Make sure to choose the saffron that was kept in an airtight container as it keeps the flavor and aroma intact.
The dark red color of saffron
If you think that saffron is yellow and red in colors as you have seen in most images, then it is not the case. The yellow strands you see are called styles that are harvested from the saffron crocus but are not the saffron strands at all. The dark orange or red stigma is the main material you want to use as a spice. Since saffron price is quite costly and a lot of effort is involved in harvesting it, some don’t bother taking out the yellow threads and instead, sell them along with the red ones. Therefore, to save yourself from the loss, buy only the dark red saffron with not a single shade of yellow in it.
Avoid Saffron powders
Any spice in its dried form is less effective and has fewer oxidants, and so is the case with saffron. The powder form of saffron crocus is easily adulterated with a lot of fillers that are hard to detect. This decreases the concentration of vitamins and deprives you of experiencing the true magnificence of saffron. However, if you still want to go for the powder form, make sure you get it from an authentic supplier and that the color of the saffron is dark red. Also, there should be no dyes used to make them red.
Characteristic Saffron aroma
When you visualize saffron, you assume it to emit a sweet smell, and all in all, that is how it smells. However, its aroma is not entirely sweet and has a certain distinctive smell in it. The smell is sweet maybe like honey but quite strong and pungent. If you have sniffed the real saffron, you can easily distinguish it from the fake ones and decide which ones are best for buying saffron online. Never mistake the sweet smell of saffron for its taste since it tastes quite bitter with a little sweet hint. If the saffron strands taste out rightly sweet, then consider it to be fake.
Pick Certified Grade A+ saffron
Being amongst the most expensive spices in the world, Saffron is an easy target for fraud. For instance, to increase the weight its moisture content is retained by not drying it properly or the powder form of Saffron is mixed with fake powder.
The only way to save yourself from buying fake Saffron is by choosing certified grade A+ Saffron – ISO3632 standard. To consider this spice to be pure, it should not have any type of additional matter and it must conform to the requirements of the ISO3632 standard. The testing methods of the ISO3632 standard assess the Saffron in its different types and form. These standards evaluate the spice for its taste, aroma, and color to determine its alimentary value.
Choosing the right type of Saffron
Saffron has many types and different qualities based on the country in which it is cultivated. There is Kashmiri Saffron, Italian Saffron, Persian Saffron, Spanish Saffron, and Greek Saffron. Picking the ideal Saffron depends on your choice and expectations for the quality and taste. However, keeping in mind the factors of quality, aroma, and the rich dark red color, Kashmiri Saffron is the best. Kashmiri Saffron gives out a strong aroma, excellent flavor, and is packed with high nutritional value that this spice can offer.
Aftermath of buying saffron
After you have worked on the above fab or from a store, there are still some chances of fallacies. If you are cautious about the saffron you ingest, you might want to do the extra work of testing its quality. Since the shopkeeper won’t allow you to run an experiment on his shop, you have to buy it and take it to your home.
The water test
Take some lukewarm water and put the saffron strands along with the water in an airtight container. Let it rest for 15 to 30 minutes and see if they retain their color or gradually shade it away. The authentic strands will remain red and there would no changes in the saffron color but a slight change in the watercolor. However, if the water changes its colors fast or remains unaffected, there is a chance that the saffron is not of good quality. Also, the saffron threads should not lose their color in the process.
The baking soda test
Many authorities suggest the baking soda test to test the real saffron threads. For this, you have to mix some threads with the baking soda in a container and wait for some time. Then take this mixture out and pour some water on it. If the color stays red, then the saffron is fake and if turns yellow, reckon it as authentic.
Read More: How to check if the Saffron is pure?
Store the saffron in an airtight container that should not be a plastic container or a bag. Store it in a cool dark place; direct exposure to the sunlight can affect its taste and small. Whether you are buying saffron online or from a reputable brand you trust and that is known for supplying authentic Ayurvedic products. Price is another important factor since you cannot buy saffron at unrealistically low prices. The too good to be true price indicates the high chances of saffron not being real.