Taste (Rasa): Pungent, Bitter
Energetics (Virya): Heating
Doshic Effects: Balancing for Vata and Kapha
Benefits & Use: Saffron contains the compounds crocin and crocetin that promote learning, memory retention, recall capacity, and are beneficial against fever, flu and cold. Derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, this spice protects the central nervous system from oxidative stress and it’s 5-hydroxytryptophan properties boost blood flow to the brain and produce serotonin, helping elevate mood while reducing depression and anxiety. Saffron also improves blood circulation in the digestive system, coating the membranes of stomach and colon and soothing gastrointestinal colic and acidity. Saffron is considered as a blood purifier and anti convulsant.
Additional Uses: Hair loss; acne; menstrual cramps; arthritis; gum health; vision; insomnia
In the Kitchen: Saffron is responsible for that distinctive bright yellow color and flavor of Italian risotto milanese, French bouillabaisse, Spanish paella, and Indian biryanis. The most common form of saffron is in the dried threads or powdered form, but you can also get saffron supplements at certain herbal food stores. You only need a few threads to season and color an entire dish. Add them directly to a dish or steep the threads in a bit of the cooking liquid. Note: Only a small amount of the spice is necessary to have an effect, and the maximum that should be consumed in a day is between .5 grams and 1 gram of this valuable spice.
Chickpea & Saffron Stew
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 shallots (or 1 small onion), chopped
- 3-4 cloves of garlic
- 2 tsp cumin
- 3 tsp paprika, sweet or smoked
- 3 tb sherry vinegar
- 1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes (tomatoes only, no juice)
- 2 or so tsp saffron threads
- 2-3 cups fresh chickpeas (or 2 cans, rinsed and drained)
- 2 cups veggie broth
- 4 cups baby spinach
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- salt & pepper to taste
- Place the drained whole tomatoes in a small bowl and gently break them apart with your hands. Set aside.
- In a large pot, heat the olive oil and add the onions and a few pinches of salt. Let the onions cook on low to medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add garlic, cumin, and paprika. Cook for about 30 seconds more (be careful it doesn’t burn).
- Add the sherry vinegar and stir keeping it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Add tomatoes and cook for another minute or so. Add the saffron, red pepper flakes, chickpeas & broth. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or so.
- Stir in the spinach and let it wilt down for a few minutes.
- Add salt and pepper to taste and adjust seasoning accordingly.