Saffron produced in Iran accounts for around 90 percent of global saffron production. The two competing producers are Spanish saffron and Afghan saffron. Nevertheless, they only account for 4% of total global production.
The scent, flavor, and color of saffron are all associated with the quality of the spice. A grading system determines quality, with 1 being the highest and 5 being the lowest.
Since the middle ages, saffron has been a prevalent spice. Aside from its unique scent, the spice offers a variety of cosmetic and therapeutic benefits. Although many people know of saffron’s plenty benefits, few know how to recognize quality saffron. Numerous individuals were not even familiar with the most well-known saffron varieties: Spanish and Persian.
We’ll look at the various distinctions and commonalities between the two today. And you might be wondering if it matters what kind of saffron you use. Let’s find out.
Spanish Saffron vs. Persian Saffron: The Differences in Appearance
There will be physical variations between Spanish and Persian saffron because they are cultivated in two distinct places.
The variations are most evident in a chemical assessment of the spice. Organoleptic properties of the Crocina (coloring component), Picocrocin (flavor component), and Safranal (aromatic component) fluctuate dramatically depending on where they come from. Other characteristics, such as humidity or total ashes, must also be considered.
Persian saffron threads usually are entirely red, but Spanish saffron threads are red and yellow. Colors occur due to the flower’s mass drying, which causes certain portions to be more charred than others.
High crocin, a natural coloring pigment in saffron, is generally indicated by entirely red or dark red saffron. Spanish saffron is brighter and less opaque. It is due to the laborious work involved in saffron production in Spain. As a result, Persian saffron has a greater propensity to color.
Furthermore, unlike Spanish saffron, generally curly and short, Persian saffron is lengthy, dense, and flat. Persian saffron is classified into different types like sargol and super negin. Sargol is like the size of the tip of the thread, whereas super negin is long, thick, and flat. Coupe saffron is high-quality Spanish saffron that is the most similar to Persian sargol threads. We will further discuss the different types of Spanish saffron and Persian saffron in the next section. So read on!
What Are the Types of Persian/Iranian Saffron?
The following are the grades and types of Persian Saffron:
Sargol: Sargol is like the size of the tip of the thread and is all red. It’s considered the finest quality compared to the other grades since it only features dark red stigma tips. Sargol saffron is 100% pure saffron with no broken stands and an ISO of 260-270. Persian Sargol has a strong aroma and is enriched with coloring capacity due to saffron’s active components buildup in stigmas.
Negin: Negin saffron is a variety of saffron in which three stigma threads are connected and form a cluster. It is the most costly variety of saffron and has a very restricted supply since its manufacturing is fragile. Also, a precise manual technique is necessary. Negin’s ISO reading is frequently higher than 270.
Pushal (Mancha): Pushal (Mancha) saffron is the stigma segment of the plant, connected to a 1-3 mm style end. It is a grade of Persian saffron that belongs to the ISO 3632 system’s grade II category, which has a color reading of up to 250. Even though Pushal lacks Sargol’s pure texture and premium quality, some customers still choose to buy Iranian Pushal to ensure saffron legitimacy and genuineness. Pushal is the most affordable variety of Persian/Iranian saffron, with many yellow and orange hues. The price is lower because this yellow component of the saffron stigma has neither culinary nor medicinal use. You’re also spending more on added weight since the thread’s yellow and orange portions have greater moisture levels.
Konj (Konge): This grade is made entirely of yellow-white styles with minimal scent and coloring.
Khooshe (Bunch): It is a relatively low strength grade with an ISO reading of 70 to 75. It comprises red stigmata and many yellow styles, all packaged in small bundles.
What Are the Types of Spanish Saffron?
Saffron grown in Spain is excellent, even though it is not the top producer. Saffron cultivated in Spain’s La Mancha area is among the most sought-after and scarce varieties available. It is because this grade of saffron has a far lesser availability than its Persian cousin. Spain additionally restricts and regulates the amount of Saffron that can be physically exported, finding it challenging for merchants to obtain.
La Mancha: This variety is Spain’s most costly saffron, although it is not the most potent. It is because authentic La Mancha saffron is only farmed in a specific small region of Spain, and its origin is protected (D.O.P). The drying method is unique, and it is frequently toast dried, giving it a more smoky flavor.
Coupe: Saffron of the most excellent grade produced in Spain. The threads on the coupe are entirely red, with no yellow style. It has the same potency and fineness as Persian “Sargol” threads.
Rio: Rio is a standard grade of saffron Spain produces. It is a grade 3 saffron of inferior quality but is a less expensive alternative to higher-grade saffrons like Coupe and La Mancha.
Sierra: Sierra is Spain’s saffron lowest quality of all the saffron varieties. It has a lot of yellow and orange tones in it. Sierra saffron’s potency is likewise poor, so you’ll need a lot more of it to get comparable outcomes as its rivals.
What to Consider in Choosing the Best Quality Saffron?
If you ask any Saffron supplier about the caliber of their saffron, they will most likely say something along the lines that they sell the optimum quality saffron.
So, if you’ve been looking for a trustworthy saffron source, you may be wondering which saffron brand is the best. Luckily, you can measure the grade of saffron. All you need to know is what distinguishes high-quality saffron from fake ones.
To acquire high-quality saffron, you need to learn about the chemical ingredients that enhance the spice quality. These chemical ingredients are the most important whether you’re purchasing Persian or Spanish saffron.
There are three things to be on the lookout for to know high-quality saffron:
Safranal (Aroma): The fragrance of saffron is related to Safranal. A reading of 35+ is recommended. You will be able to taste Saffron without high amounts of Safranal, but the scent will be weak.
Crocin (Color): Crocin is the pigment that gives saffron its color. Saffron of the high grade will have a color rating of 250 or more.
Picocrocin (Taste): Picocrocin is the compound that gives saffron its flavor. A Picocrocin level of 90-110 is recommended for premium quality saffron.
Does the origin and kind of saffron matter?
When it comes to saffron, knowing how to distinguish and choose the quality saffron among suppliers is critical. Most people can’t be bothered to learn more about saffron grading schemes or identify fake saffron.
Authentic Saffron can cost over $10,000 per kilo, making fake saffron extremely profitable. If you use low-quality or counterfeit saffron, your food will lack the taste that only authentic saffron can deliver. So you know you’re receiving high-quality saffron at a fair price when you understand what you are purchasing and when you select the top saffron provider.
In the end, your particular preferences will determine which saffron is the finest. The essential thing is to know how to tell what is real and what isn’t to make the most of your money.