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Does Saffron taste like plastic to anyone else?

I always pitied people who thought cilantro tasted like soap (I love the stuff), but I'm realizing after a few exposures that I don't like saffron - it tastes very plasticky to me. This is both the Penzeys coupe grade and some commercial rouille I tried at a friend's house. Anyone else run into this?

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  1. I've never heard that one before! In my opinion, it has its uses. I'm not a huge fan of it like some people though.

    1. I get a much more metallic taste from it than plastic.

      1. Prehaps not a fresh example? To me it has a wonderful pungent fruity taste. It really depends on how you use the spice, though. Some people have odd taste buds. For example, theres a large contingent that when they taste cilantro they get a soapy flavor. Sad really.

        1. It took me a long time to get used to the taste of saffron - longer even than cilantro. I finally realized I was starting to get used to it when I was eating a fish soup, something I love and seldom have a chance to eat, and it had just a little bit of saffron in it. (For years, the saffron would keep me from eating such a dish after the first bite.) I realized I was eating it and liking it despite the saffron, and began to understand how the flavor worked with the other ingredients. I realized I could tolerate it, and eventually began to enjoy it in greater amounts. Now I use it all the time.

          Me, I think most chardonnay, except the stuff that's vinified in the Burgundian style, tastes like floor polish. We all have these little mental links. I hope you can get to the point where you can eat what you want.

          2 Replies
          1. re: lemons

            I don't care for chards. They taste like asparagus to me. I love asparugus, but not in drinkable form.

            1. re: DallasDude

              I hated the oak in chardonnay for a long time, then i had a chardonnay in a steel cask, which got me to come around. Now I love heavily oaked chardonnays, and even like chardonnay barrel aged beers.... weird, eh? But.... I am okay with saffron. No hate or love involved. If its there in paella, i'm happy. If its not there in my risottto? i'm not gonna cry. Not a bad taste, but just indifferent

          2. Saffron never really was meant to flavor any foods as much as it was used to color certain dishes. Do you know why saffron is so expensive? It takes 750 fully developed stigmas (250 flowers) from the saffron (crocus) flower to produce one gram of saffron. Saffron is a poison (CNS Depressant and causes severe Kidney damage) in doses of 10-12 grams, but because of it's high cost most people could never afford enough of it to be in danger.
            You may very well not even be tasting true saffron, but "fillers" used by unscrupulous dealers trying to make a buck selling bogus saffron. None the less, as said before it isn't even really meant to flavor foods.

            6 Replies
            1. re: daddio

              I don't agree that saffron is used for color only. It definitely alters the flavor in dishes that it is used in. As stated by another poster, good saffron used correctly gives a citrusy brightness to food; also a unique slight bitterness that can cut some of the richness and starchiness from pasta and rice dishes.

              1. re: daddio

                Yes I also don't agree that saffron is for color only, it is meant for flavor in many rice dishes, sweets and sweet dishes, and even types of teas in South Asia and also in the Middle East. For example, local people in the United Arab Emirates where I live use it to perfume their black Arabic coffee, and you can't see the color at all, but you can taste the undertone of saffron in the coffee. Or like a Pakistani or N. Indian zafraani pullao which is supposed to taste heavily of cilantro. Many South Asian sweets called "kesari" or "zafraani" in the name are also supposed to taste of saffron not just be yellow-orange.

                I love cilantro but am not that crazy about saffron. My husband absolutely hates the taste of saffron so I very rarely use it in anything.

                1. re: luckyfatima

                  Saffron became popular in Sweden to flavor holiday breads and pastries. Cardamom is also popular. My theory is that Turkish creditors, who followed the Swedish army back home to make sure they would get repaid for money lent to the soldiers, introduced the the Swedes to these flavors. Interestingly, these same turks, who stayed for 20 years (it took that long to settle the debts) introduced "kåldomar" -- stuffed cabbage in the style of stuffed grape leaves. Swedes have adopted this as traditional home cooking.

                2. re: daddio

                  Saffron for color only??? No way. It has a very distinctive flavor. It only takes a little bit (fortunately, because it's expensive) , and is best added towards the end of cooking.

                  1. re: daddio

                    Saffron is not a poison.Dr.Oz explained that it made certain cancer cells commit suicide.To something poisonous it may be dangerous such as the cancer cells afore mentioned.Now if certain people are allergic to something it can act as such.Like raw onions or peppers smell give me a headache.I can only eatcaramelized onions or banana peppers.I don't even enjoy black pepper.to season my food or cooked peppers.I've discovered that onions peppers and things in the onion family like garlic are dangerous to dogs liver and or kidneys which could also kill them.Being a diabetic I refuse to mess with either peppers or white or purple onions because of my illness and what they can do to my best friends.Another thing I have taken into account.that everybody can be predisposed to different effects because most people are different.Case in point fingerprints or allegedly identical twins personalities even clones.Since nobody can take up.the same space and time with the same exact experience everybody is different.Even clones. ;-)

                    1. re: daddio

                      You are correct about dealers cutting Saffron with cheap fillers. Having seen this once in Spain, some certainly do pull this trick to the unwary.

                      One common cheap filler is safflower, which has been sold in Europe as 100 % Saffron. It comes from an entirely different plant. If it is too inexpensive to be true, it probably isn't real Saffron.

                      Fortunately we have a number of true crocus plants growing in the Alps, along trails planted by religious pilgrims returning from Spain. My wife and I discovered some one Spring, and although I'm not going to mention where ( not a common path or weg ), we came back with a pocketful.

                      For more information on the subject:

                      True fresh-dried Saffron tastes like Saffron. If it tastes like plastic, it may not be Saffron, or was not fully dried before it was placed in a plastic bag.

                    2. Try using less. When one uses too much saffron in a dish, it can easily taste medicinal or plastic-y. Use less and the citrus brightness and tanginess really comes through.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: maria lorraine

                        I was going to say it tastes medicinal to me, rather than plasticky, maria lorraine. And I've tried to follow all the usual instructions about using it, too...not overdoing, using fresh from a reliable source, trying from different sources/places, etc. I've finally come to the conclusion that I just don't care for it that much. If a recipe absolutely doesn't depend upon saffron, I've taken to using turmeric at home, instead. Not the same, I know, but it gives color and a flavor that I prefer.

                        1. re: Normandie

                          Our individual biochemistry can make each of us very harshly dislike a flavor. If saffron is one that you don't care for, that's totally cool. Our OP may be one of those people as well. Just wanted to cover that a quantity is often an issue -- an overly saffron-ed dish can easily taste like mercurochrome.

                          1. re: maria lorraine

                            That question of biochemistry and how it makes each of us react to foods is very intriguing to me. Cultural or even psychogenic responses are understandable, to me. For example, when my husband was a little boy, he was home with his mother, eating scrambled eggs for breakfast, just as they received notification that his father had been badly injured in a workplace accident. Even though his father recovered, for decades my husband couldn't stand the taste of scrambled eggs. Clearly that was associated with a trauma, and there's a logical connection.

                            You're exactly right--saffron tastes to me what mercurochrome smells like (haven't ever tasted mercurochrome), and that's if I even use a very small number of threads. But it's not like I'm a "supertaster" or anything like that. I like food heavily spiced and (I think) use much more than a "supertaster" would be able to tolerate. So...if it's not a categorical response to seasonings, it makes sense that you're right, that it's an individual biochemical response. That's just a weird (wierd?) concept to me. I understand how it works with allergies (anti-bodies, etc.), but preferences/aversions is something different. Another mystery of the universe.

                            1. re: Normandie

                              It is precisely a mystery of the universe.

                              (Thank you.)

                              But I know it exists. I know a biochemical aversion to certain smells and tastes is real and hard-wired. To be clear, I mean a biochemical aversion -- even before any ingestion or contact -- and not an allergy. Nor a cultural/person preference.

                              For example, when I was in my 30s, I visited my parents at my family home. My mother is frying apples to accompany an Alsatian pork dish. I smell the dish, am in the kitchen for less than 3 minutes when apologize to my parents that I have to leave. I love apples. Not so wild about apple desserts (prefer other fruits), but apples *frying* -- I have to leave. My father's eyes widened and he said that the only other person he'd ever heard that from was his own father, my grandfather.

                              After that, I recalled several other vague memories of frying apples that also made me want to retch.

                              Other Chowhounds have this kind of experience with other foods. You can read more in this thread:
                              "Most disgusting taste (of normal foodstuffs)"

                              I know from wine-tastings that each of our individual palates is highly tuned to some tastes and less attuned to other tastes. Beyond that, some foods cause a severe reaction in some people even before ingesting them. It seems chemical, sometimes volatile, likely molecular in its underpinnings.

                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                Isn't that strange... (rhetorical, btw)...about you and your grandfather both being made so uncomfortable by that one thing. That suggests a genetic link, or as you said it, a "hardwiring".

                                That makes me think that what today may look like cultural preferences or aversions could theoretically (if we had the means) be traced back to biological or enviromental circumstances shared by certain groups of ancestors.

                                I don't know if I'm explaining myself clearly, but...for example...my ancestors, paternal and maternal, were all Northern Europeans, who of course didn't need certain protections against a strong sun. And everybody I can think of whom I've ever met, to whom I'm related *by blood*, has blue eyes. No surprise, right? We know that already, that people whose origins go back to extreme northern or extreme southern points on the globe tend to have light eyes and light skin, while people descended from others who came from closer to the equator have greater incident of brown eyes and darker skin. No news there.

                                I'm wondering if there's something like that that could be traced back to biological or survival needs when it comes to food preferences/aversions. I guess our science doesn't yet have the tools to know that, does it?

                                1. re: Normandie

                                  In fact, our science is more than ever equipped to "trace" these things, especially these days with the almost minute-by-minute expansion of our understanding of the genetic diversity of the human species on the face of the earth as we know it now and as it has been. One thing to keep in mind is that there is more genetic diversity within the African continent (historically and in the present day) as there ever has been outside of Africa, so any genetic adaptations that directly or secondarily determine how taste plays on our brains could have well existed before more far-flung (migration-wise) environmental adaptations had anything to do with them.

                      2. I will also throw out the idea thaqt saffron does not impoart a distint flavor, it does. Perhap it is a difference in pallate. And that would be unfortunate.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: DallasDude

                          I have made the mistake of overdoing the saffron in recipes a few times (I've got a a bunch of the good stuff as gifts from friends, and like truffles, the more the better, right? kinda thinking) and have learned that saffron is best used in no more than a small pinch. I made a near florescent-yellow risotto once, and it would be best described as tasting like chloriney kiddie pool. Just wield with caution, and it adds a nice background in the same way that anchovies do.

                        2. I completely agree, saffron has a very plasticky taste. I've had several dishes with saffron in them, and disliked them greatly.
                          The soapy cilantro baffles me though. I like cilantro, and to me it has a very sharp almost metallic taste.

                          1. I think I know the flavor you're referring to.

                            I think someone is using it too heavily. A pinch is enough really. I take a pinch, crush it well in my palm with the thumb of my other hand and bloom it in whatever liquid the recipe calls for.

                            I think both the buttery flavor and lovely yellow color are important.

                            1. I love saffron, but I do understand what the OP smells. When I just smell saffron, in the jar, it has a very plasticky smell to me - but when I cook it in something (generally rice, or soup), for me, that smell goes away.

                              1. OMG I never thought I'd run into anyone who actually said that out loud!
                                Thank goodness I found you.

                                I consider myself a foodie - I love ethnic foods, spices, rices, Asian, Indian, etc. so I was sure I would love saffron.
                                It is the most expensive spice you can buy, by weight, so I did some research, learned about what it was, how it was grown, what the different quality levels were, then decided to make the investment! I'm worth it, right? Let's do it!

                                So I ordered the second most expensive kind from Penzey's Spices, and literally waited with mouth salivating for it to be delivered to my front door.

                                When it finally came, I just made the basic Saffron Rice recipe posted by Penzey's. I thought, hey, I'll start with just the rice, so I can get a real handle on the flavor, experience it in a pure form, and then decide what other delicious dishes I would create using my brand new bottle of Spanish Coupe Saffron! Which, by the way, is "100% red Saffron threads", going for $82 per .25 oz (it IS hand picked, after all).

                                WELL, I was so disappointed in the flavor (yes, it does have a slight plastic ambiance going on), or lack of flavor, in the Saffron Rice dish I made, I nearly cried. How could this be? How could I, a self proclaimed foodie with a deep appreciation for rice dishes, NOT like Saffron?

                                It's still a mystery to me.

                                And the rest of the jar of Saffron is still sitting there in my spice cupboard, jeering at me.

                                3 Replies
                                  1. re: DallasDude

                                    Where do I get a truffle? I shop mainly at Kroger and Meijer. I don't recall seeing them, but would love to get some.

                                  2. re: aces551

                                    Yes, SUBTLE is the secret. I sell Saffron (Crazy4Flavour.co.uk) and I still tell people to USE LESS!

                                    Also try to get Iranian Saffron, and don't buy Saffron Powder (it's far too easy for unscrupulous traders to adulterate, and at the price of Saffron that's a BIG mark-up they make - buy Saffron Threads, always

                                  3. Well, I've eaten saffron many times and it is much better than the plastic, metal and cilantro that I have eaten.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: chaz

                                      There are many fake saffrons out there and stay away fron the powders because it is too easy to dilute the saffron. I usually buy Spanish Mancha threads and for most recipes only a few threads are needed so 1 gram of real saffron can last a long time. Remember to soak it in warm liquid for 15-30 minutes before adding to a recipe.

                                      Taste can be subjective and depends on the ingredients in the recipe because they will interact with the saffron. To me saffron has an earthy/honey/bitter taste with a metallic hint. Trick is not to use too much.

                                    2. Saffron is better as a background flavor as in seafood stew, but let the other seasonings lead, like Pernod. Saffron is like cumin, when over-used a dish becomes unpalettable.

                                      1. It must be your taste buds and the way they perceive the flavor. I happen to love it as I do cilantro, but I have a sister in law and a friend( a chef at that) who think cilantro tastes like soap. Go figure!

                                          1. I know someone who had a brain tumor and this affected the taste of food. Lemons were sweet and bananas when eaten reminded them of a skunk smell. When the tumor was removed the taste and smell of foods went back to normal

                                            1. Hi Bikery -

                                              Perhaps it is the aroma, or fragrance of Saffron you notice.

                                              I don't taste plastic as a rule, but I think you are right that it may pick-up a plastic scent if packaged in cellophane or a plastic box.

                                              I have seen Saffron dried and sorted in Spain, and it carries a different fragrance in that setting, than if packaged. I was told in Spain never to wrap it in cellophane, but to leave it dried in a small metal box or tin.

                                              I like it, and can tell if it is omitted in Paella or Risotto Milanese. Turmeric alone is a poor substitute, along with Safflower Saffron, which some cheap restaurants get away with, and doesn't cut it.