India is strongly connected to the colour saffron, not only is it an integral part of the India as a nation but it is deeply embedded in the culture of this country. Saffron holds significance not only in the traditions we follow, but also in the food that we eat, the art that we make, the cosmetics we use and last but not the least for curative uses. It is a colour of sacrifice, of purity, of strength, of national prides all rolled into one.

Saffron’s richness is not limited to the properties and the uses that it has, but has an equally endearing legacy as well. Saffron is derived from the flower of “Crocus Sativus”, commonly known as the “Saffron Crocus”. Its origins are said to be a traceable to either Greece or Southwest Asia however it is certain that it was first cultivated in Greece. The styles and stigmas of the spice, called threads, are collected and dried and then sold for various uses. As a genetically monomorphic clone it was slowly propagated throughout much of Eurasia and was later brought to parts of North Africa, North America, and Oceania. The golden yellow hue that the saffron imparts to whatever it is mixed with is attributable to the carotenoid pigment, crocin.

Specific to the food palate saffron is a gourmet spice that is exquisite not only in its availability but also in the aromatic flavours that it imparts to the food that uses it in the preparations. From the flavourful Zafrani Pulao (a classic rice dish from royal Hyderabad) to the delightful Saffron Infused Kheer (a dessert with sweetened rice cooked in milk from the Indian Hinterland) to the soothing Kahwa (a hot beverage from beautiful Kashmir) the use of saffron in spans the length and breadth of this country.

For all the beauty conscious folks out there, saffron is a miracle ingredient to a lot of DIY beauty treatments. Mixed with raw milk it soothes skin in winters/colder climes and imparts a lovely glow to the skin. It is also said to possess antiseptic properties and can combat acne as well.

Said to be one of the costliest spices in the world, saffron is a prized possession by any standards. Having said that saffron holds a special place in the Indian household and you will always find a neatly packed bottle casing those delicate strands of the spice that is pulled out only for special meals and occasion. Someone rightly said, there are times you need to put your best food forward, and it’s even better if saffron with its beautiful hue is your aide for those times!

1-243x300 Meeta Kalra is a food critic and blogger