Bengal has a lot of saffron. Its oil is known as sifarma—the Sanskrit word for the aroma from which it is called. (Saffron was used by the Romans before they developed a process for making it.)
Most of the oils the Indians extract from saffron leaves are used in dyeing—a technique that makes the saffron’s bright color possible. As a result, it’s one of the few spices that make up the color range in your spice cabinet.
Saffron is also used as dye on clothing; you can see this in the sari dresses that are popular in Nepal. (I haven’t seen a sari with a dark brown color in a while, but I’ve heard of people using brown-sleeved shirts and dresses.)
The oil from saffron trees is also used to preserve foods and drinks in India. (India’s national distilleries take 100 percent of their oil that they can extract.) The oil can be used to color fruits (though I’ve never seen it used on apples). And of course, it’s used as saffron-enriched tea, and in cosmetics.
Saffron’s other applications include perfume as a strong, distinctive floral component and toasted saffron in place of sugar in soups and stews.
It’s used as an edible dye—in the process of turning plant matter into something edible (saffron is the edible version of saffron). Saffron was also used in Victorian times to enhance the color of textiles, including cotton.
There are several varieties of saffron. The wild type is red; cultivated varieties are olive green, purple, or black.
What does it cost when you buy and eat saffron?
To buy saffron, you’ll need a good-quality stone called a saffron stone, a little bit of saffron to rub on your food, and some saffron oil. (For saffron oil, I recommend PureSaffron, made in the U.K., which I’ve had for decades and recommend.)
How much money are saffron producers making?
In the U.K., India, and Nepal, saffron is used to make an intoxicating oil, known in the trade as saffron tea. (You may be tempted to think that this is an Indian-style drink, but
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