Saffron is known to be the most expensive spice in the world due to its labour-intensive harvesting process. It is harvested from the crocus flower, and each flower produces only three stigmas, the strands of saffron used in cooking. Due to its high value, saffron is often counterfeited, making it essential for buyers to be able to distinguish between genuine and fake saffron. In this article, we will discuss seven easy methods to distinguish real saffron from fake saffron.
See also: What is saffron
One of the most straightforward ways to distinguish between real and fake saffron is through the price. As mentioned, saffron is a labour-intensive spice to harvest, and its price reflects this. If you come across saffron being sold at an unusually low price, it is likely that it is fake or of poor quality. Real saffron is expensive, and you can expect to pay a premium price for it.
Real saffron’s distinctive appearance sets it apart from its counterfeit counterparts. Genuine saffron strands are deep red in colour and have a trumpet shape. Fake saffron, on the other hand, may be made from other materials and can appear in a variety of colours, such as orange or yellow. In addition, real saffron strands are long and thin, while fake ones may be shorter and thicker.
Another way to distinguish between real and fake saffron is through its smell. Real saffron has a distinct aroma that is strong and slightly sweet. The aroma of fake saffron may be weaker or non-existent. If you are unsure about the quality of saffron, try rubbing it between your fingers to release its aroma.
4. Water Test
The water test is a simple and effective method to test the authenticity of saffron. Take a small amount of saffron and place it in a cup of warm water. If the water turns yellow immediately, it is likely that the saffron is fake. Real saffron takes a few minutes to release its colour and flavour, so if the water turns yellow too quickly, it is a sign that the saffron is not genuine.
Real saffron has a unique texture that is slightly brittle and dry to the touch. It should break easily and have a slightly rough texture. If the saffron strands are soft and pliable, it is likely that it is not real saffron. In addition, fake saffron may leave behind a sticky residue when rubbed between your fingers.
The packaging of saffron can also provide clues as to its authenticity. Real saffron is often sold in small quantities, as it is a rare and expensive spice. If you come across saffron being sold in large quantities or in bulk, it is likely that it is fake. In addition, genuine saffron is usually packaged in airtight containers to preserve its flavour and aroma. If the saffron is being sold in open containers or packaging that is not airtight, it is likely that it is not genuine.
The most reliable way to determine the authenticity of saffron is through its taste. Real saffron has a distinct, slightly bitter taste that is difficult to replicate. If the saffron tastes sweet or has a chemical aftertaste, it is likely that it is not genuine. However, this method should only be used if you are confident in the authenticity of the saffron, as tasting fake saffron can be harmful to your health.
Although efforts have been made to ensure the quality and standardization of saffron, a long-standing history of saffron adulteration continues into modern times, especially among the cheaper grades. Adulteration of saffron was first documented during Europe’s Middle Ages, and those found guilty of selling adulterated saffron were punished under the Safranschou code. Adulteration methods typically involve adding extraneous substances like beetroot, pomegranate fibres, red-dyed silk fibres, or the tasteless and odourless yellow stamens of the saffron crocus. In some cases, saffron fibres are coated with viscous substances like honey or vegetable oil to increase their weight. Powdered saffron is even more susceptible to adulteration, with turmeric, paprika, and other powders used as diluting fillers. Adulteration can also take the form of selling mislabeled mixes of different saffron grades. (Source: Wikipedia)
It is important to note that even with these methods, it can still be challenging to differentiate between real and fake saffron. Some counterfeiters have become adept at replicating the appearance and aroma of real saffron, making it challenging for consumers to detect the difference. Additionally, some fake saffron may be mixed with real saffron, making it even harder to identify.
If you are unsure about the authenticity of the saffron, it is best to purchase it from a trusted source. Look for sellers who specialize in selling saffron and who have a good reputation for selling genuine products. If possible, try to purchase saffron from the country where it is grown, as this is likely to be the most authentic source.