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J Agric Food Chem. 2005 Jul 27;53(15):5969-75.

Effect of drying temperature and air flow on the production and retention of secondary metabolites in saffron.

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School of Agricultural Science, Tasmanian Institute of Agricultural Research, and Central Science Laboratory, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 54, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia.


Safranal is the compound most responsible for the aroma of saffron spice and is, together with the suite of crocin pigments, the major determinant of the product quality. The content of safranal and pigments in saffron is determined by the method of postharvest treatment of the Crocus stigmas. A range of drying treatments involving different temperatures, with or without air flow, was applied to stigmas from three harvest dates. Dual solvent extractions combined with quantitative measurement using GC and HPLC-UV-vis techniques were used to analyze the secondary metabolite contents of the products. It was demonstrated that these methods overcame the previously reported problems in measuring the concentration of both pigments and safranal in saffron caused by the very different polarities and thus solubilities of these compounds. The results showed that a brief (20 min) initial period at a relatively high temperature (between 80 and 92 degrees C) followed by continued drying at a lower temperature (43 degrees C) produced saffron with a safranal content up to 25 times that of saffron dried only at lower temperatures. Evidence was provided suggesting that drying with significant air flow reduced the safranal concentration. The results, moreover, indicated that high-temperature treatment had allowed greater retention of crocin pigments than in saffron dried at intermediate temperatures (46-58 degrees C). The biochemical implications of the various treatments are discussed in relation to the potential for optimizing color and fragrance quality in the product.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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