The botanical name for Saffron is Crocus sativus Linn. The name ‘Saffron’ derives from Arabic za’fran which means "be yellow". Saffron is the slender, dried, reddish-brown, flattened stigma of a purple crocus of the iris family. It takes anything from 70,000 to 150,000 flowers to make one pound of saffron.
Saffron is sold in two forms, powder and threads, and each behave very differently in the kitchen. Pure saffron is made up of tiny, bright-red threads. The quality of Saffron is measured by the brightness of the color. Powdered saffron loses it flavor more rapidly and can easily be adulterated with less-expensive powders like turmeric.
Saffron adds color and fragrance to food and has medicinal values too. The use of saffron go back to ancient Egypt and Rome where it was used as a dye, in perfumes, as a drug, as well as for culinary purposes.
Saffron is used for asthma, cough, whooping cough, and to loosen phlegm. It is also used for cancer, intestinal gas , Alzheimer’s disease, spitting up blood ,pain, and dry skin. In some countries, it is believed that use of Saffron with milk, enhances the color of the baby when used during pregnancy!
In foods, saffron is used as a food coloring, and as a flavoring agent. Heat releases saffron's flavor essence and so it needs to be soaked in hot water before being added to food. The aromatic fragrance enhances the food and also gives it an appealing color.
Saffron is to Food as Happiness is to Life-both enhance the quality of the other!