Everything You Need to Know About Saffron

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a pile of saffron threads on a rustic wooden tableWhen most of us think about Greek herbs and spices, very few of us actually add saffron to the list. However, it is a mistake to leave it out. Greeks do use saffron quite regularly in their cuisine and some of the best saffron in the world actually comes from Greece. Here’s a quick guide on what you need to know about this delicate spice:

Where Saffron Comes From

The spice that we know of as saffron actually comes from a crocus flower with the latin name of Crocus sativus. Each flower typically has three blooms, each of which has a single stigma. These are hand collected and dried in order to form the spice. After the stigma is dried, it is either packaged and served whole or ground and served that way.

Where Greek Saffron Grows

The saffron that is available in Greece is one of the most highly prized in the world. It is also widely available, which makes it a little more affordable than the saffron that is collected in other regions. For instance, there is a Greek named Krokus that is located in the Greek state of Macedonia. The crocus flowers that grow here are harvested for their stigmas and are well-known because of the lovely jewel-red color they impart and also for their delicate flavor. This spice is usually referred to as Kozani Saffron and can be purchased in Greece when you visit or in specialty shops throughout the world. Each year, diligent workers harvest hundreds of thousands of stigmas in order to keep up with the demand for this product.

How the Saffron is Used

Do you have experience cooking with saffron? If so, it is used in Greek cuisine in much the same way as it is in other cuisines. It’s typically used to flavor rice dishes, chicken dishes, and vegetable dishes. It’s also a delicious flavoring when paired with seafood, especially in dishes such as fisherman stew and anything that involves octopus, squid, or shellfish. It also pairs very well with anything that involves a lemon sauce. Cooks that don’t have saffron in hand often leave it out, but once you start using it in your cooking, it will be difficult to do without out!

Finding Saffron in Greek Mythology

Saffron has been so highly prized with Greeks throughout the world, there’s actually a myth that explains its creation. There are actually two versions of the story that describe its creation. Both of the stories describe a mortal named Crocus. In the first version of the story, Crocus had a love affair with a nymph names Smilax. Because of his unhappiness, the gods turned him into the plant that bore his name (Crocus). In another version of the story, Crocus was a companion of the messenger god, Hermes, until Hermes accidentally killed him one day. In this story, Crocus was also transformed into the beautiful Crocus flower.

As you can see, the saffron spice is an important part of Greek culture and cuisine. It’s worth it to have some saffron stigmas in your spice cabinet so that you can see how wonderful they really taste!

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This post was written by GreekBoston.com

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