Saffron is a sweet smelling spice that is native to Southwest Asia and has since become a common food additive used worldwide. It is often compared to turmeric in terms of health benefits and uses, and is commonly added to dishes such as soup and rice. It is known to provide the meals that they are added to with a unique, golden-yellow color.
Aside from being one of the healthiest spices available, it is also one of the most expensive, with prices ranging from $2,000 to $10,000 per pound. At prices that high, it’s no wonder why there is such an abundance of fake saffron being sold on the market.
Health Benefits Of Saffron
Not only does fake saffron not provide that same flavor that real saffron does, it also provides none of the health benefits that this spice is known for.
Similar to turmeric, saffron has been shown to be effective at treating several mental and cognitive disorders. One study showed that taking a saffron product by mouth for 22 weeks improved symptoms of Alzheimer’s as effectively as the prescription drug donepezil. Other research has shown that taking a saffron extract for six to eight weeks improved symptoms of major depression as effectively as antidepressants such as fluoxetine or imipramine.
Saffron has also been proven to be effective at relieving pain and other unpleasant symptoms caused by premenstrual syndrome. Other conditions that saffron has been shown to improve include asthma, infertility and psoriasis.
Real Saffron vs Fake Saffron
Now that you know how important it is to make sure that you’re getting real saffron, I’m going to give you a few tips, and very effective testing method, that you can follow to tell if your saffron is real. But first, I’m going to tell you exactly what fake saffron is.
Silk from corn husks is most commonly passed off as fake saffron, mainly due to it’s similar texture and shape. The corn silk is dyed using artificial dyes or sometimes natural ones such as beet juice. Aside from corn husk silk, coconut fibers and sometimes even strands of dyed-red paper are used to substitute saffron strands.
There are several methods that you can use to determine if saffron is fake or real. Start off by examining the its physical characteristics. Real saffron are delicate strings that often resemble small trumpets. Fake saffron is usually straighter than real saffron and does not have the same trumpet-like shape. It also feels more coarse than real saffron, and is usually darker red, depending on the type of dye used.
Real saffron has a distinctive scent that some people describe as “sweet” and “woody”, or similar to honey. Fake saffron is usually bland and will sometimes not provide any sort of aroma.
You can also test the legitimacy of saffron by placing a strand, or multiple strands, in warm cups of water, as pictured above.
Real saffron (pictured on the right side) will release a light, golden-yellow hue into the water, as this is the natural color that saffron releases, despite its red appearance. Fake saffron will release a dark red hue, similar to the color that it has itself, into the water, sometimes making it so dark that it becomes opaque.
If you pull the strands of saffron out of the water, the real saffron will have retained its natural, vibrant color, while the fake saffron will look dull. This is because the dyes used to color the fake saffron will have washed out in the water.
It is also advised to avoid buying powdered or ground saffron as it is more likely to be cut with cheaper substances such as turmeric, paprika or bark.
For information of fake foods that you probably thought were real, click here.
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