What do you know about saffron?
December 19, 2003 1:54 PM   Subscribe

What does saffron taste like? Also what are the differences between Greek, Indian, Iranian and Spanish saffron? Also which is the best?

I've grown up in Mumbai, my mum's a great cook, so I've had saffron in my meals and Indian sweets and even the mandatory saffron and almond milk during winters. I know we usually use Spanish Mancha Saffron. I am very familiar with saffron, I just don't know to describe the taste.
posted by riffola to Food & Drink (11 answers total)
Best answer: I always think 'medicinal', but I just asked the boyfriend and he says 'burnt flowers'.
posted by calico at 2:09 PM on December 19, 2003

Best answer: Hmm, good question. I recognize saffron when I taste it, but I don't think I could describe it in commonly-used flavor terms (sweet, salty, etc.) Looks like we're not alone, either -- this page offers a lengthy description by a chef who goes on and on about the uses, kinds, etc. of saffron...but is rather vague on the issue of what it actually tastes like. And this page offers the helpful "saffron tastes like saffron." I'll be interested to read how others describe it.
posted by boomchicka at 2:17 PM on December 19, 2003

Best answer: Saffron tastes a bit flowery. Sort of perfumey.
posted by y6y6y6 at 2:43 PM on December 19, 2003

Saffron is an essential ingredient in medieval cookery, which I do a great deal. Saffron comes from the Crocus flower, and I've always felt that it tastes a bit like the flower smells. Its a very subtle taste, but if I omit saffron I always notice that its missing.

I'd always understood that Kashmir Saffron (from India) was the 'best' quality saffron, followed by Spanish saffron. Because it comes from a plant, the growing environment (soil and air quality, etc) contribute to the flavor, and I've always understood that the different growing locations gave the plants different flavors. The quality of saffron is also affected by how completely the filaments are cleaned.

I don't think that was very helpful ... sorry.
posted by anastasiav at 3:39 PM on December 19, 2003

Best answer: It tastes like a flower because it is part of a flower -- and it's picked with tweezers so far as I know. And has been for the last bazillion years (so much for modernized farming).

Like a lot of spices used in medieval cookery, I think saffron tastes a bit . . . earthy. Not like dirt, just very rich and it tends to cover the taste of some things (strong spices were sometimes used to make not-so-good food taste better).

And I think it was also used to dye cloth and made a rich, reddish-orangish color.
posted by grabbingsand at 7:21 PM on December 19, 2003

Adding more than a tiny little bit of saffron to a dish does give a flavour that, to me, is almost unpleasant - I'm with calico in finding it somewhat medicinal. Just a tiny taste of it certainly adds a certain background something, however, and the colour it imparts is fabulous - I use it mostly in rice-based dishes. I've always used Spanish saffron, but only because that seems the easiest to find in these parts. Apparently Iran is the biggest producer of it these days
posted by misteraitch at 11:37 PM on December 19, 2003

Where is a good place to purchase saffron without getting gouged? Our local grocery store has a *tiny* amount (maybe a pinch) of saffron from an indeterminite source for $5.00 ... there's gotta be a cheaper source than that.
posted by SpecialK at 8:12 PM on December 20, 2003

I've always found saffron has kind of an antiseptic taste to it that can be somewhat overpowering if you put too much of it when preparing a dish.
posted by antifreez_ at 8:51 PM on December 20, 2003

Response by poster: SpecialK, Indian stores or Middle Eastern stores or Spanish stores are best bet for better priced saffron. Saffron is incredibly expensive. The tiny lil plastic cases are easily $5 (not sure how tiny the one you saw was).
posted by riffola at 9:16 PM on December 20, 2003

Where is a good place to purchase saffron without getting gouged? Our local grocery store has a *tiny* amount (maybe a pinch) of saffron from an indeterminate source for $5.00 ... there's gotta be a cheaper source than that.

I buy mine on line here -- $6 - $10 per gram (depending on quality). If the saffron your local store is selling weighs about a gram and is good quality (look for unbroken stems and a strong color) then its a bargain.
posted by anastasiav at 11:09 AM on December 22, 2003

This is where I brought it most recently - it wasn't bad at all
posted by darsh at 11:11 AM on December 23, 2003

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