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Did I buy saffron?

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I recently visited Marrakech where I took part in a Moroccan cooking course, on the way back from the communal bread oven I was led into a spice shop by someone from the restaurant. I wanted to buy spice to take home anyway and thought this would be a good place as the cookery school has a good reputation as a restaurant and i had already read stories of fake saffron so i tough this would be a good place.

I watched the shopkeeper run through his little play of spraying a strand with water and watching it turn yellow and played the normal haggling game. when i got my saffron home I tested it compared to my saffron from a reputable store here in the UK. It turns red in water rather than yellow and will disintegrate if rubbed which doesn't happen with my other stuff. It does have a vaguely saffron taste but no strong aroma.

What have I bought? Is it poor quality saffrron? Safflower? or have I just bought some expensive dyed dry grass?

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It does not look like the safflower in that picture, it looks absolutely identical to real saffron, there are a few small yellow strands in there too.

In terms of aroma, if you sniff the bag as a whole it does have a vague presence of saffron, but no where near as strong as my tube of known saffron - smaller amounts smell of virtually nothing. i have cut through a few strands and it's the same colour throughout, so it doesn't seem to be just dyed on the outside. Also, the stamens feel thicker and drier than my known good saffron.

I'm concerned about using it as i'm not even sure it's safe for consumption.

Edited by iainpb (log)
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It's my understanding that there are actually several different kinds of saffron, and not all are equal quality. Wikipedia has a short paragraph towards the end explaining this here and I found another site by a seller explaining the same thing in slightly more detail here. I'm sorry I couldn't find a better source but it all does tie in towards what I expected to find.

You are right that it does vary in intensity and should be cheaper because of it.

Seth Mariscal

The Nutty Food Lover


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