This is an article written by the website ANSA.it, Livelitaly only traduced to English
DNA test for saffron: the results allowed us to reconstruct the history of its plant and provide precious elements to protect it and avoid counterfeits. It has been discovered, for example, that the plant descends from the intersection of two slightly different specimens of a single wild species called Crocus cartwrightianus, which grows on the Greek island of Crete. Published in the journal New Phytologist, the study is due to researchers from the Dresden Polytechnic University. “We managed to shed light on the species from which the plant is derived,” notes molecular biologist Thomas Schmidt.
With a price up to 30,000 euros per kilogram, saffron is the most expensive spice in the world and owes its typical aroma to a molecule called Safranal. It is produced starting from the stigmas, that is the filaments that contain the pollen, of the flowers of the Crocus sativus, which bloom in autumn.
The harvest is done strictly by hand, at the rate of 80 grams of stigmas per day obtained from 150,000-200,000 flowers. Subsequently, the three stigmas of each flower are manually separated and dried. The dried filaments form the fragrant and colorful spice. Because of its great value, ground saffron is often adulterated with the addition of pollen from other flowers and this is why experts advise consumers to buy saffron in threads and not in powder.
Cultivated for more than 3,000 years, the plant is the result of an intensive selection carried out by farmers to improve stigma production. However the plant that has been selected has the drawback of not generating fertile seeds and its reproduction is only possible through the bulbs. To solve the problem and in order to obtain plants that can be easily reproduced through the seeds in order to intensify the cultivation, the species from which the cultivated plant is derived has been sought for years. And this is precisely the mystery that was solved by the Dresden biologists.