Pure saffron is one of the world's most expensive spices. Notoriously hard to cultivate and produce, it commands such high prices that it can also fall victim to fraudulent imitation.
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While pre-packaged saffron might be subject to rigorous quality control checks with international quality standards (ISO) and trademarks guaranteeing authenticity, when buying saffron loose these regulated quality controls aren't always guaranteed. So how can you be absolutely sure that you are not buying fake saffron?
Fortunately, there are a few rudimentary checks that you can deploy in order to determine if your saffron is the real deal, meaning you won't miss out on those ethereal savoury notes that only saffron can impart.
Here are 5 simple methods for testing if you have authentic saffron:
1. Physical Aspect
Use your eyes. While the colour may be easier to imitate, real saffron is formed in strands with diffuse ends.
Try tasting the saffron, real saffron will have a bitter and slightly astringent taste when placed on the tongue. If it tastes sweet, it's probably a give away that it's fake.
Try sniffing your saffron. If it's aroma is like a cross between hay and honey, it's probably real. If there's no aroma, it could well be fake.
4. Water test
Put the saffron in water and if it colours the water that's ok - the real test is when you take the saffron out of the water. If the strands are no longer coloured - they are fake.
5. Baking Soda Test
Mix in a small amount of baking soda to a beaker of water, then add your saffron. The water/baking soda mix should turn yellow if its pure saffron, whereas fake saffron will turn the water red.