Kasubha is NOT Saffron

When it comes to vibrant and aromatic spices, saffron often stands out as a premium choice. However, not all that glitters is gold, and not all that looks like saffron is genuine. This is the case with kasubha, a spice that is commonly mistaken for saffron. Despite its similar appearance and ability to impart a yellow-orange hue to food, kasubha is not saffron.

Origin and Differences

Saffron

Saffron is derived from the saffron crocus flower (Crocus sativus). Each flower produces three stigmas, which are painstakingly hand-harvested and dried to become the saffron threads known for their distinctive flavor, aroma, and coloring properties. Saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world due to this labor-intensive harvesting process and its limited geographical growth regions.

Kasubha

Kasubha, on the other hand, comes from the Carthamus tinctorius plant, commonly known as safflower. Safflower petals can also be dried and used as a culinary spice. While they can color dishes similarly to saffron, the flavor and aroma of kasubha are distinctly different and much milder compared to the robust profile of true saffron.

Misleading Marketing in the Philippines

One of the most curious and troubling aspects of kasubha is how it is marketed in the Philippines. Certain companies, such as Wil-pack, have been found to mislead consumers by selling kasubha as saffron. This dishonest practice not only misinforms consumers but also devalues their trust and expectations.

Wil-pack kasubha

The overpriced Wil-pack kasubha, marketed as a cheaper alternative to imported saffron, costs P36.25 (about USD0.84) for a 20-gram jar. This price difference creates an illusion of value, tempting buyers to think they are getting a bargain on saffron when, in fact, they are purchasing a completely different product.

The Ethics of Cooking with Kasubha

Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with using kasubha. Cooking often involves making use of available ingredients, and sustainable cooking emphasizes using locally-sourced products. Kasubha can be a valuable addition to many dishes, adding color and subtle flavor. However, transparency is crucial. Consumers have the right to know what they are purchasing and using in their cooking.

Personal Experience and Concerns

Personally, I find it troubling that some business entities resort to such unethical practices. I purchased a jar of “saffron” for P36.25, fully aware that it was kasubha, with the intention of highlighting this issue through my blog. Real saffron costs nearly P300.00 for a small packet, which is significantly more expensive. My goal was to shed light on this mislabeling and misrepresentation, urging consumers to be cautious and well-informed.

Cooking with Kasubha

Despite the misleading marketing, kasubha has its place in the kitchen. I have used kasubha in several traditional dishes such as “goto” (tripe congee) and arroz caldo (rice porridge). These dishes benefit from the vibrant color and mild flavor of kasubha, showcasing how local ingredients can be effectively utilized in various recipes.

Conclusion

In conclusion, while kasubha can be a useful and sustainable ingredient, it is essential for consumers to recognize that it is not saffron. The deceptive marketing practices surrounding kasubha in the Philippines highlight the importance of consumer awareness and honesty in food labeling. By understanding the differences between kasubha and saffron, consumers can make informed choices and appreciate each spice for what it truly is.

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