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J Agric Food Chem. 2005 May 18;53(10):3974-9.

Influence of different drying and aging conditions on saffron constituents.

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  • 1ETSI Agrónomos, Universidad Castilla-La Mancha, 02071 Albacete, Spain.


A dehydration postharvesting treatment is necessary to convert Crocus sativus L. stigmas into saffron spice. Three different dehydration treatments were evaluated: dehydration at room temperature; dehydration with hot air at different temperatures (70, 90, and 110 degrees C); and dehydration following traditional processing in Castille-La Mancha (Spain) with three different heating sources (vineshoot charcoal, gas cooker, and electric coil). The time (between 28 and 55 min) and mean temperature (between 54 and 83 degrees C) conditions for traditional dehydration were established for the first time. The highest coloring strength was obtained when saffron was submitted to higher temperatures and lower times. These findings may be supported by the fact that samples dehydrated at high temperature were more porous than those dehydrated at room temperature, as was observed by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and differential scanning calorimetry (DSC). The higher the temperature during the process, the higher the proportion of trans-crocetin di-(beta-D-gentibiosyl) ester, although trans-crocetin (beta-D-glucosyl)-(beta-D-gentibiosyl) and trans-crocetin di-(beta-D-glucosyl) ester decrease while cis-crocins did not change significantly. A thermal aging process reveals that the trans-crocetin di-(beta-D-gentibiosyl) ester increases when saffron is resubmitted to a heating treatment before it is decomposed by the extreme conditions. The picrocrocin extinction during the aging process does not imply a consistent generation of safranal.

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