Saffron is the most seductive and mysterious of spices. Over thousands of years, saffron perfumed the halls of Crete’s palaces, made Cleopatra more alluring and decorated kings’ and queens’ dining tables in heavenly gardens of Persia. Its subtle flavour, distinct aroma and vibrant colour evoke a distinct sensory experience which can be hard to describe — some say floral, some say it’s like honey, and some would say simply pungent. Saffron gives that distinctive bright yellow/orange colour and pungency to authentic risotto milanese, bouillabaisse, paella, and biryanis.
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Saffron is the dried orange-red stigma (the female part) of a particular kind of crocus flower. In a good crop, each plant typically produces several flowers with 3 stigmas in each flower. Each must be harvested carefully by hand just as the flower is opening. Resistant to modern technology, the fragile blossoms must still be gathered by hand from the ancient fields of Iran, India, Greece, Spain and Italy. This is why it is the most costly spice.
The stamen, the masculine part of the crocus, is half the size of the stigmas. When dried the stamens are yellow. This colour in the spice is a giveaway that the saffron has been padded with dried stamen and is of poor quality – the lighter the colour, the more “filler” there is. True saffron has a rich red colour. A “blend” of stamens and stigmas is often found in both the thread and powdered forms of saffron. Not only is there little culinary value in this padding, but they can dilute the flavour and colour of a dish.
Friend & Burrell collaborates with the Zade family of Iran to produce and distribute the superb Zar Taj saffron. We’re proud to say our saffron is the finest available anywhere in the world – Iranian Sargol, 100% pure saffron, made up of the red stigmas from crocus flowers grown in traditional ways, all hand cut and separated prior to drying. Stigmas cut this way provide maximum flavour, aroma and natural colour in cooking and baking.
Zar Taj easily meets the three essential features of authentic and highest quality saffron:
Saffron threads (Stigmas) are all red (no gold or yellow).
Saffron threads are dry and brittle. Moisture shortens the shelf life and quality.
Saffron aroma is fresh, fragrant and strong. Not musty.
“For centuries, the people of my village in Persia’s beautiful eastern plains have grown the world’s best saffron. Its seasons, aromas and flavours have delighted my senses since my earliest days.
As a child, I would walk with my friends and neighbours through the dawn mist to pick the ripe flowers. Each day of the short harvest season was, and remains, a highlight of our village year. At noon, after the picking, young and old sit together, sharing laughter and traditional stories while peeling the precious petals. By twilight, every picker’s hand is dusted with the unique colour of the crop. In the evening, the pure saffron is graded ready for drying and packing by women born to the craft. My family is dedicated to providing discerning customers throughout the world with one of earth’s greatest treasures.”
Iman N Zade
Our Taj Zar saffron is enjoyed by leading chefs and cooks.
“I love spice and pure saffron is something that I am seriously passionate about. The Zar Taj brand consistantly delivers the quality and intensity that I am looking for. The Zade’s family are also passionate about providing the highest quality saffron through artisinal production, picking and drying the annual crop from their own lands in the South of Khorasan province.”
You can enjoy it too. Available in 15gm tins – Buy now!