Saffron Crocus sativus Iridaceae

Saffron, from dried stigmas of Crocus sativus, is the world's most expensive spice. It takes seventy thousand flowers to produce about half a kilogram of saffron. Its name comes from the Arabic zafaran (yellow) and saffron was the Mediterranean equivalent of the Asian turmeric. In Classical times, saffron was strewed on floors as a perfume and figured in Roman trade with India. By 960 ad, the Arabs were cultivating saffron in Spain, while the Crusaders probably introduced it to northern Europe. Being expensive, saffron was often adulterated, as described by Pliny. In 15th century Germany, traders found guilty of adulterating saffron were burned or buried alive. Saffron reputedly cured everything from toothache to plague; drinking saffron tea induced optimism; and saffron tea was even added to canaries' drinking water.

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