That expensive spice that gets dished out in teeny weeny little plastic boxes from the supermarket, farmed from goodness knows where. I always pictured back breaking labourers hanging over the edges of exotic cliffs, gently plucking the stamens from crocus flowers in countries like Iran, or elsewhere in the middle east. I never thought that these flowers could be grown in Australia, as I didn't think we had the climate they liked?
How wrong I was !
Credit to Jindrich Shejbal for the lovely photo of the crocus flower.
Saffron is grown in Australia and New Zealand and there are 60 growers in total across the two countries. One saffron producer is very close to home and operates out of Bungendore. Windview Farm is on the Kings Highway in Bungendore, and they grow crocus flowers and process the stamens. Harvesting occurs every August. I discovered them at the Capital Region Farmer's Market at EPIC, and bought one of their little bottles.
I have only ever used saffron in cooking, from colouring rice, to adding colour and flavour to curries and risottos. I didn't know saffron has a wide variety of health benefits too. Studies show saffron can help with vision problems (cataracts), respiratory ailments (like asthma), can improve memory and cholesterol levels, can reduce inflammation of the mouth and tongue, and has even been shown to have anti-cancer properties.
The tip to using this saffron is to soak it in warm (not hot!) water or milk (depending on how you are to use it) for a minimum of 15 minutes, or preferably overnight. This will infuse the liquid with the lovely golden colour and flavour. Some commercially available saffron is dyed with colourings. If your saffron immediately colours its soaking liquid, then its probably had colours added.
I can't wait to use this saffron in something. Maybe an Indian feast is in order. Mmmm... curries, rices and homemade naan breads.