Production technology and processing of saffron (crocus) by Mr Allah Dad Khan Former Director General Agriculture Extension KPK Province Pakistan
TECHNOLOGY ANDTECHNOLOGY AND
PROCESSING OFPROCESSING OF
SAFFRON (CROCUSSAFFRON (CROCUS
SATIVUS L.)SATIVUS L.)
IN PAKISTANIN PAKISTAN
Allah Dad Khan
Saffron Production in World 2009
Country Production in Tons
India 6 tons
Greek 5 tons
Azerbaijan 3.7 tons
Morocco 0.8 tons
Italy 100 kg
Turkey 10 kg
France 5 kg
Switzer land I kg
Major Exporter of Saffron
Major importer countries of Iran’s saffron are The United
Arab Emirates (UAE), Spain, Torkmenistan, France and
Italy, and 90% of Iran’s saffron exports are in bulk.
The English word saffro n stems from the Latin word safranum via
the 12th-century Old French term safran.
Meanwhile, Safranum derives via Persian ( زعفرانza'ferân). Some
argue that it ultimately came from the Arabic word رانَنا فَناعَْف زَنا (za'far nā ),
which is itself derived from the adjectiveفرَناصَْف أَنا (a farṣ , "yellow").
However, some give an alternative derivation arguing that رانَنا فَناعَْف زَنا
(z a'far nā ) is the arabicized form of the Persian word زرپران
(zarpar nā ) - "having yellow leaves".
Latin safranum is also the
source of the Italian z affe rano and Spanish az afrán.
Saffron (pronounced /ˈsæfrɒn/) is a spice derived from the flower of
the saffron crocus (Cro cus sativus ), a species of crocus in the
Iridaceae. A C. sativus flower bears three stigmas, each the distal
end of a carpel. Together with their styles—stalks connecting
stigmas to their host plant—stigmas are dried and used in cooking
as a seasoning and colouring agent.
Saffron Greek mythology
According to Greek mythology, handsome mortal
Crocos fell in love with the beautiful nymph Smilax. But
alas, his favors were rebuffed by Smilax, and he was
turned into a beautiful purple crocus flower.
Saffron's bitter taste and an iodoform- or hay-like fragrance result from the
chemicals picrocrocin and safranal.
A carotenoid dye, crocin, allows saffron
impart a rich golden-yellow hue to dishes and textiles.
Varieties of saffron
Sargol Iranian Variety
Iranian Standard Variety
Saffron was first documented in a 7th-century BC Assyrian botanical
reference compiled under Ashurbanipal. Since then, documentation of
saffron's use over a span of 4,000 years in the treatment of some ninety
illnesses has been uncovered.
Saffron slowly spread throughout much of
Eurasia, later reaching parts of North Africa, North America, and Oceania.
Saffron is native to Southwest Asia
Saffron-based pigments have been found in 50,000 year-old depictions of
prehistoric places in northwest Iran.
One of the first historic references to the use of saffron comes from Ancient
Egypt , where it was used by Cleopatra and other Pharaons as an aromatic
and seductive essence, and to make ablutions in temples and sacred
Saffron was also highly appreciated in the Classic Greece for its coloring
and aromatic properties. It was used as a remedy to sleeplessness and to
reduce hangovers caused by wine. It was also used to perfume bathing and
as an aphrodisiac.
Arabs used saffron in medicine for its anaesthetic properties. It was the
Arabs who introduced the cultivation of saffron in Spain in the X century.
Evidence of different kinds assure that saffron was an irreplaceable
ingredient in the hispanic-arabic cooking of that age.
Main obstacles to saffron
Indeed, the production are: (1) the limited areas
of cultivation in countries where it is traditionally
grown, (2) the great amount of sophisticated
spice, (3) management techniques executed by
hand, and (4) the very high price of the spice.
Favorable in snowy and mild winters, hot and dry summers
Moisture: water requirement 300 mm rainfall in growing
Min. coldness tolerable: -18°C
Max. tolerable temp: +40 °C
Soil: loamy sand texture and plenty of Calcium
Inoculation of corms with mycorrhiza increasing 26% corm
latitude : 32 to 36°N
Altitude:1000 meters from sea level
Saffron is cultivated in light and alluvial soils, but it thrives well in sandy
loam soil . Hard and sandy soils are not recommended for its cultivation
1. In hard soil it cannot push its roots into deeper layer of the soil.
2.Sand in summer become warmer and in winter cooler.
In the month of august the land may be
ploughed twice or thrice gently and add about 4
to 5 trucks of well rotted farm yard manure to
maintained soil fertility , and then irrigate it and
when there is some moisture level, prepare the
Time of planting
Time of planting is from September to October
first week. Once the corms are planted , the
corms grows and as soon as the flowers
harvested.The plants be left there the leaves dry
up and the corms matures . The corms so
produced are valueable produce for 12 to 15
The distance between corm to corm 12 cm and from row to
row 25 cm.Recommended planting depths for corms vary
from 7.5-10 cm to 15-22 cm. Planting depth of 15 cm gave
better yields than shallower or deeper planting. Planting
depth affects corm production; more buds sprout from
shallow planted corms than from deep planted ones,
resulting in more daughter corms.
In traditional saffron culture, large amounts of farm yard manure were
applied to the saffron fields before planting, and typically 20-30 tons
per hectare are incorporated during cultivation. This material supplies
nutrients, but its other major role is to improve soil moisture
holding capacity and structure under non irrigated conditions.
Under traditional growing systems no further fertilizer was applied
after corm planting. However, recent data suggest that at least some
annual fertilizer applications are beneficial and a base dressing of 80 kg
P/ha and 30 kg K/ha followed by a split application of 20 kg N/ha in
autumn and again immediately after flowering is recommended.
Saffron requires very less numbers of irrigations.After cultivation they may
be irrigated twice or thice 15 to 20 days interval In summer from April to
october they do not required any irrigation because they become dormant .
The most important point is that the saffron must be irrigated 10 days before
flowering i.e 15th
october and the second irrigation after the flowers are
picked . . In the month of December January and February, if there are rains
and snow fall no irrigation is necessary otherwise once in a month.
After first irrigation when there is some
moisture in the soil a little hoeing is necessary
so that the flowers become easily.
Development of flower and different stages of growth during
an annual time: complete plant
Flower bud ,mid April to June, complete dormancy
June to July, leaves develop
July to August, flower and reproductive organs develop
Primitive period: 50 days
Development: 55 days
Middle : 105 days
Final: 30 days
Sawdust mulch helped reduce weed problems. During
the dormant phase, when the tops died off, we used
the herbicides Roundup® or Buster® to clean up the beds
prior to the new season’s flowering and growth.
The choice of chemical depended on the weeds
present. The old top growth, which dies in the
summer, needs to be raked off the beds prior to
the autumn flowering.
Pests and diseases
Rabbits, rats and birds can cause problems in
Saffron fields by eating or lifting the corms.
Many pests (e.g. nematodes) and diseases
(e.g. corm rots, leaf rusts)
attack saffron, and the incidence is greatly
affected by the growing environment
Flowers are usually picked daily in the morning
After the dew has evaporated but before flowers
wither. The flower is cut at the base of the flower
stem with a slight twisting movement or by
cutting with the finger nail.
Following the separation of the stigmas from the flowers, it is
essential to dry the flower heads immediately. Drying
experiments show that drying at temperatures up to 110o C
can be used. The critical issue is the length of drying
time (e.g. at 110 o C for 2 minutes).
Recent Spanish research shows drying in a hot air flow at
70 o C for 6 minutes will give quality saffron. Brightness
of colour is aided by quick high temperature drying. Slow
drying gives a poor quality product. Another method is to
use a dehydrator at 48 o C for
3 hours. irrespective of the drying method, it is important
not to over dry. A final dry matter close to 10% moisture
is adequate for long-term storage.
The average yield varies from 2 to 2.5 kg/ha,
where 1 kg of intact flowers yields 72 g of fresh
stigmas or 12 g of dried stigmas .The size of
individual stigmas and the amount of style
collected influence the total yield and quality of
saffron. Between 70 000 and 200 000 flowers
(0.3-1 g each) are needed to produce 1 kg of
Saffron is graded via laboratory measurement of crocin (colour),
picrocrocin (taste), and safranal (fragrance) content. Determination
of non-stigma content ("floral waste content") and other extraneous
matter such as inorganic material ("ash") are also key. Grading
standards are set by the
International Organization for Standardization, a federation of
national standards bodies. ISO 3632 deals exclusively with saffron
and establishes four empirical colour intensity grades: IV (poorest),
III, II, and I (finest quality)
OurSargol Iranian saffron & Spanish saffron grading standards comparison
I 259.3 - -
I >190 Up to 5% -
II 180-190 Up to 5% 10-15%
II 150-180 Up to 10% 15-20%
III 145-150 Up to 10% 20-25%
IV 80-110 Up to 15% 25-30%
Iranian / Persian Saffron & Spanish Saffron Grading Comparison
The quality of saffron is dependent on its coloring
power (crocin concentration), odor (safranal) and taste
(picrocrocin). The best quality saffron has a high safranal
content. Saffron is dry, glossy and greasy to the touch
when freshly dried, turning dull and brittle with age.
It is easily bleached if not stored in the dark, and also
Stores better under conditions of low temperature and
low relative Humidity.
Saffron prices at wholesale and retail rates range from US$500 to US$5,000 per
pound (US$1,100–11,000/kg)—equivalent to £2,500/€3,500 per pound or
£5,500/€7,500 per kilogram.
The price in Canada recently rose to CAN$18,000 per kilogram. In Western
countries, the average retail price is $1,000/£500/€700 per pound
(US$2,200/£1,100/€1,550 per kilogram).
A pound comprises between 70,000 and 200,000 threads. Vivid crimson colouring,
slight moistness, elasticity, and lack of broken-off thread debris are all traits of fresh
How to recognize Fresh Saffron
The fresh saffron is bitter in taste
The fresh saffron if rubbed in
between two fingers the fingers
become oily and yellowish.
Store saffron in an airtight container in a cool, dark place
for up to six months for maximum flavor. Saffron, like
other herbs and spices, is sensitive to light, so wrap the
packet in foil to protect it further. It will not spoil, but it
will lose increasingly more and more of its flavor with
Saffron, contains minerals, mucilage, fat, wax and aromatic
Terpenic Essential oil with a few cineol, such as picroretine,
picrocrocine and crocine. There are 10 to 16 percent water, 5 to 7
percent minerals, a few Gloside, 5 to 8 percent fat and wax, 12 to
13 percent protein with a few essential oil that make Saffron more
delightful and produces a stronger smell. Main color substance of
Saffron is a compound called crocine,
Besides crocine, Saffron contains free aglycone crocine and a few
anthocyanin pigment, as well as oil soluble pigments in terms of
lycopene, alpha carotene, beta carotene and zeaxanthin. Saffron
coloring power is one of the main determining parameters in
deciding quality of Saffron and is evaluated by the quantity of its
colorant components with a spectrophotometer at the wave length
of 443 nanometers.
Properly stored you can keep saffron for
minimally 4 years. It won’t go bad but the
flavor will diminish as it ages.
The taste of saffron
Taste of Saffron is formed by a major component--bitter taste glucose, by
means of crystallization under the title of picrocrocin with C16 H26 O7
chemical formula, acid hydrolysis produces glucose and aldehyde that
Safranal is the main aromatic substance and makes up about 60 percent of
volatile components of Saffron. It is free as nonvolatile picrocrocin in fresh
Saffron, but due to heat and time, it will be volatile aldehyde of Safranal.
Safranal is a volatile, oily liquid with light yellow spot. This oily liquid
dissolves easily in ethanol, methanol, ether and oil. By means of distillation
under releasing CO2 gas, ether oil is separated and evaporated finally, the
remained oil is yellow liquid that has strong aroma of Saffron. As this
substance is part of terepenes, it is very sensitive against oxidation,
therefore, must be kept in special condition.
Uses of saffron
4. Coloring/ dye of textile
6. Medicinal use for cancer.
Historically it was used mainly for treating depression. Clinical tests in the
Roozbeh Psychiatric Hospital in the Tehran University of Medical Sciences
have indicated that it is a safe antidepressant. It can also be used to treat
epilepsy, digestive disturbances, asthmatic breathing, fever, etc. These
uses should not be attempted without medical advice.
Saffron is as important ingredient of large number of Ayurvedic medicines.
On account of its strong antipoisonous, aphrodisiac, cardiotonic,
carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, febrifuge, stimulant,
lactogogue, livotonic, nervine tonic, sedative and styptic properties it is
highly valued in Ayurveda
Saffro n is bitte r, g re asy and it cure s he ad ailm e nts and he als wo unds. It is pung e nt,
sto ps vo m iting and g ive s brig htne ss to the bo d.
Saffro n is bitte r, pung e nt and he aty. It sto ps phle g m and cure s g astric pro ble m s. It
he als wo unds, e ye and he ad ailm e nts. It se rve s as an anti-ve no m . It also g ive s
brig htne ss to the bo dy y as we llas cure s the thre e ailm e nts Dise ase s such as
le pro sy, he ad ailm e nts, inse ctbite s are allcure d by saffro n which also unifie s the
thre e bo dy hum o urs
The stigma are soaked in water, milk or
alcohol before used in food, to release the
flavour and colour. Well-known dishes are
paella, bouillabaisse, breyani and "yellow rice"
(pulao). It goes particularly well with dairy
products and most grains. It has a slightly
bitter taste on its own, but taste is greatly
influenced by the pairing with ingredients, as
well as its cultivation.
A saffron bun, in Swedish lusse katt (literally "Lucy cat", after Saint Lucy)
or lusse bulle , is a rich yeast dough bun that is flavoured
with saffronand cinnamon or nutmeg and contains currants. In Sweden, no cinnamon
or nutmeg is used in the bun, and raisins are used instead of currants. The buns are
baked into many traditional shapes, of which the simplest is a reversed S-shape.
They are traditionally eaten duringAdvent, and especially on Saint Lucy's Day,
December 13. In England, the buns were traditionally baked on sycamore leaves and
dusted with powdered sugar. This "revel bun" from Cornwall is baked for special
occasions, such as anniversary feasts (revels), or the dedication of a church. In the
West of Cornwall large saffron buns are also known as "tea treat buns" and are
associated with Methodist Sunday Schooloutings or activities.
This was the primary use centuries ago and
the pigments that cause the intensive yellow
colour have been isolated and their staining
capacity chemically determined. The yellow
robes of the Buddhist monks in Tibet and
China are saffron-dyed.
Saffron is thought to clear skin, even acne,
and is usually applied in the form of a mask.
Traditionally it was used by high-born Indian
women to impart a golden hue to the skin.
Why Saffron ?
Saffron production requires about 10% of the water
needed to produce cotton. The plant germinates
naturally around the village, therefore it requires
minimum tending to produce a good crop. And being
one of the most expensive spices of the world, farmers
who switched to saffron could count on doubling their
income. A small local enterprise was established to link
the saffron producers to its consumers, which brought
significant benefits to the community. New education
and employment opportunities arose. Women played a
major role in all these developments and thus improved
their social status.
everybody foreverybody for