Is it dangerous to eat saffron in moderate amounts? And what does it taste like? These are the topics we examined in a recent episode of the popular British cooking show, Kitchen Nightmares .
Saffron is a colorless yellow flower, with bright, green leaves and stems. To understand why it’s used, you have to understand the science behind its production. The flowers of saffron are very hard to distinguish, so a lot of the research on it has focused on its use as a spice or a flavor in cuisine — but it’s also incredibly valuable for its role in healing.
Scientists have figured out a way to extract the chemical compounds in the flowers — called corymatine — and use them to make an aromatic compound called limonene, which is used to flavor foods and cosmetics in many cultures. Saffron itself has been used for centuries, especially in Spain, but scientists have only recently figured out how to process the plant into the pure ingredients required for making saffron flower oil.
The extraction process involves extracting the oils, as well as using enzymes and chemicals that kill harmful bacteria and allow for the extraction of the corymatines. Once the oil is extracted, the plant is washed through hot water to break down, and then boiled, to create a liquid that has the same color and smell as the flower.
“It takes at least three to five days for this oil to take place; it needs time to come to this concentration, where it won’t turn into a thick red paste,” said Dr. Thomas MacDougall, an expert in saffron plant biology at the Royal Veterinary College in Edinburgh, UK. He explained that this oil can be used for a number of purposes, from salad dressing to perfume and body lotion.
Saffron oil can also be used as food. When added to foods such as tomatoes and cucumbers, saffron oil has been used to make a paste. Dr. Thomas added that most commercial saffron oil is made from the flowers of the flower, as well as from other plants.
There are many different types of saffron oil used on the market. Most of these types of oil are made from only two parts of each flower: oil from the flowers and oil from the leaves. However, others are made from the other three parts. When it comes to saffron oil vs. any other plant oil, the type of oil you have will determine how potent the oil is.
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