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Saffron () is a spice derived from the flower of ''
Crocus sativus ''Crocus sativus'', commonly known as saffron crocus, or autumn crocus, is a species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversit ...
'', commonly known as the "saffron crocus". The vivid crimson
stigma Stigma or plural stigmata, stigmas may refer to: * Social stigma, the disapproval of a person based on physical or behavioral characteristics that distinguish them from others Symbolism * Stigmata, bodily marks or wounds resembling the crucifix ...
and
styles Style is a manner of doing or presenting things and may refer to: * Architectural style, the features that make a building or structure historically identifiable * Design, the process of creating something * Fashion, a prevailing mode of clothing s ...
, called threads, are collected and dried for use mainly as a
seasoning Seasoning is the process of adding herbs In general use, herbs are a widely distributed and widespread group of plants, excluding vegetables Vegetables are parts of plants that are consumed by humans or other animals as food. The origina ...

seasoning
and colouring agent in food. Saffron has long been the world's costliest spice by weight. Although some doubts remain on its origin, it is believed that saffron originated in
Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subregion is a part of a larger regio ...

Iran
. However, Greece and Mesopotamia have also been suggested as the possible region of origin of this plant. Saffron crocus slowly propagated throughout much of
Eurasia Eurasia () is the largest continent A continent is any of several large landmass A landmass, or land mass, is a large region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a ...

Eurasia
and was later brought to parts of North Africa, North America, and Oceania. Saffron's taste and
iodoform Iodoform (also known as triiodomethane and, inaccurately, as carbon triiodide) is the organoiodine compound with the formula In science Science (from the Latin word ''scientia'', meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that Scien ...

iodoform
-like or
hay Hay is grass Poaceae () or Gramineae () is a large and nearly ubiquitous family In human society, family (from la, familia) is a group of people related either by consanguinity (by recognized birth) or affinity (by marriage or ...

hay
-like fragrance result from the
phytochemical Phytochemicals are chemical compound A chemical compound is a chemical substance composed of many identical molecules (or molecular entity, molecular entities) composed of atoms from more than one chemical element, element held together by che ...
s and . It also contains a
carotenoid Carotenoids (), also called tetraterpenoids, are yellow, orange, and red organic Organic may refer to: * Organic, of or relating to an organism, a living entity * Organic, of or relating to an anatomical organ (anatomy), organ Chemistry * Organ ...
pigment,
crocin Crocin is a carotenoid Carotenoids (), also called tetraterpenoids, are yellow, orange, and red organic compound, organic pigments that are produced by plants and algae, as well as several bacteria, and fungi. Carotenoids give the characteristic ...

crocin
, which imparts a rich golden-yellow hue to dishes and textiles. Its recorded history is attested in a 7th-century BC
Assyria Assyria (), also called the Assyrian Empire, was a Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of We ...

Assyria
n botanical treatise, and has been traded and used for thousands of years. In the 21st century,
Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subregion is a part of a larger regio ...

Iran
produces some 90% of the world total for saffron. At US$5,000 per kg or higher, saffron is the world's most expensive spice.


Etymology

A degree of uncertainty surrounds the origin of the English word "saffron". It might stem from the 12th-century
Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance language The Romance languages, less commonly Latin or Neo-Latin languages, are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular o ...
term ''safran'', which comes from the Latin word , from the Arabic ''za'farān'', which comes from the Persian word ''zarparan'' meaning "gold strung" (implying either the golden stamens of the flower or the golden color it creates when used as flavor).


Species


Description

The domesticated saffron crocus, ''Crocus sativus'', is an autumn-
flowering A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom, is the reproductive Reproduction (or procreation or breeding) is the biological process by which new individual organisms – "offspring" – are produced from their "parent" or parents ...

flowering
perennial plant A perennial plant or simply perennial is a plant that lives more than two years. The term (''wikt:per-#Prefix, per-'' + ''wikt:-ennial#Suffix, -ennial'', "through the years") is often used to differentiate a plant from shorter-lived annual p ...
unknown in the wild. It probably descends from the eastern Mediterranean autumn-flowering ''Crocus cartwrightianus'' which is also known as "wild saffron" and originated in
Crete Crete ( el, Κρήτη, translit=, Modern Modern may refer to: History *Modern history Human history, also known as world history, is the description of humanity's past. It is informed by archaeology Archaeology or archeology ...

Crete
or Central Asia. '' C. thomasii'' and '''' are other possible sources. As a genetically monomorphic clone, it slowly propagated throughout much of
Eurasia Eurasia () is the largest continent A continent is any of several large landmass A landmass, or land mass, is a large region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a ...

Eurasia
. It is a sterile
triploid Polyploidy is a condition in which the biological cell, cells of an organism have more than two paired (Homologous chromosome, homologous) sets of chromosomes. Most species whose cells have Cell nucleus, nuclei (eukaryotes) are diploid, meaning ...
form, which means that three homologous sets of
chromosome A chromosome is a long DNA molecule with part or all of the genome, genetic material of an organism. Most eukaryotic chromosomes include packaging proteins called histones which, aided by Chaperone (protein), chaperone proteins, bind to and ...

chromosome
s make up each specimen's genetic complement; ''C. sativus'' bears eight chromosomal bodies per set, making for 24 in total. Being sterile, the purple flowers of ''C. sativus'' fail to produce viable seeds; reproduction hinges on human assistance: clusters of
corm A corm, bulbo-tuber, or bulbotuber is a short, vertical, swollen underground plant stem that serves as a storage organ that some plants use to survive winter or other adverse conditions such as summer drought and heat (perennation). The word '' ...

corm
s, underground, bulb-like, starch-storing organs, must be dug up, divided, and replanted. A corm survives for one season, producing via vegetative division up to ten "cormlets" that can grow into new plants in the next season. The compact corms are small, brown globules that can measure as large as in diameter, have a flat base, and are shrouded in a dense mat of parallel fibres; this coat is referred to as the "corm tunic". Corms also bear vertical fibres, thin and net-like, that grow up to above the plant's neck. The plant sprouts 5–11 white and non-
photosynthetic Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to convert Conversion or convert may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media * Conversion (Doctor Who audio), "Conversion" (''Doctor Who'' audio), an episode of the audio drama ' ...

photosynthetic
leaves known as
cataphyll In plant morphology Phytomorphology is the study of the physical form and external structure of plant Plants are predominantly photosynthetic Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to Energy transformation, ...
s. These membrane-like structures cover and protect 5 to 11 true leaves as they bud and develop on the crocus flower. The latter are thin, straight, and blade-like green foliage leaves, which are , in diameter, which either expand after the flowers have opened ("hysteranthous") or do so simultaneously with their blooming ("synanthous"). ''C. sativus'' cataphylls are suspected by some to manifest prior to blooming when the plant is irrigated relatively early in the growing season. Its floral axes, or flower-bearing structures, bear
bract In botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant life and a branch of biology. A botanist, plant scientist or phytologist is a scientist who specialises in this field. The term "botany" comes from the Anci ...

bract
eoles, or specialised leaves, that sprout from the flower stems; the latter are known as
pedicels Image:Delphinium nuttallianum 15498.JPG, The inflorescence of ''Delphinium nuttallianum''. Each flower is held on a pedicel from one to several centimeters long. A pedicel is a stem that attaches a single flower to the inflorescence. Such inflores ...
. After aestivating in spring, the plant sends up its true leaves, each up to in length. Only in October, after most other flowering plants have released their seeds, do its brilliantly hued flowers develop; they range from a light pastel shade of lilac to a darker and more striated mauve. The flowers possess a sweet, honey-like fragrance. Upon flowering, the plants are in height and bear up to four flowers. A three-pronged
style Style is a manner of doing or presenting things and may refer to: * Architectural style An architectural style is a set of characteristics and features that make a building or other structure notable or historically identifiable. It is a sub-cla ...
in length, emerges from each flower. Each prong terminates with a vivid crimson
stigma Stigma or plural stigmata, stigmas may refer to: * Social stigma, the disapproval of a person based on physical or behavioral characteristics that distinguish them from others Symbolism * Stigmata, bodily marks or wounds resembling the crucifix ...
, which are the distal end of a
carpel Gynoecium (; ) is most commonly used as a collective term for the parts of a flower A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom, is the reproduction, reproductive structure found in flowering plants (plants of the division Magnoliophyta, ...
.


Cultivation

The saffron crocus, unknown in the wild, probably descends from '' Crocus cartwrightianus''. It is a
triploid Polyploidy is a condition in which the biological cell, cells of an organism have more than two paired (Homologous chromosome, homologous) sets of chromosomes. Most species whose cells have Cell nucleus, nuclei (eukaryotes) are diploid, meaning ...
that is "self-incompatible" and male sterile; it undergoes aberrant
meiosis Meiosis (; , because it is a reductional division) is a special type of of in organisms used to produce the , such as or . It involves two rounds of division that ultimately result in four cells with only one copy of each (). Additionall ...

meiosis
and is hence incapable of independent sexual reproduction—all propagation is by vegetative multiplication via manual "divide-and-set" of a starter clone or by interspecific hybridisation. ''Crocus sativus'' thrives in the Mediterranean maquis, an ecotype superficially resembling the North American
chaparral Chaparral ( ) is a shrubland Shrubland, scrubland, scrub, brush, or bush is a plant community characterized by vegetation dominance (ecology), dominated by shrubs, often also including grasses, Herbaceous plant, herbs, and geophytes. Shrublan ...

chaparral
, and similar climates where hot and dry summer breezes sweep semi-arid lands. It can nonetheless survive cold winters, tolerating frosts as low as and short periods of snow cover. Irrigation is required if grown outside of moist environments such as
Kashmir Kashmir, ks, کٔشیٖر, kaśīr () is the northernmost geographical region of the Indian subcontinent. Until the mid-19th century, the term "Kashmir" denoted only the Kashmir Valley The Kashmir Valley, also known as the ''Vale ...

Kashmir
, where annual rainfall averages ; saffron-growing regions in Greece ( annually) and Spain () are far drier than the main cultivating Iranian regions. What makes this possible is the timing of the local wet seasons; generous spring rains and drier summers are optimal. Rain immediately preceding flowering boosts saffron yields; rainy or cold weather during flowering promotes disease and reduces yields. Persistently damp and hot conditions harm the crops, and rabbits, rats, and birds cause damage by digging up corms.
Nematode The nematodes ( or grc-gre, Νηματώδη; la, Nematoda) or roundworms constitute the phylum Nematoda (also called Nemathelminthes), with plant-parasitic nematodes also known as eelworms. They are a diverse animal phylum inhabiting a bro ...

Nematode
s, leaf rusts, and corm rot pose other threats. Yet ''
Bacillus subtilis ''Bacillus subtilis'', known also as the hay bacillus or grass bacillus, is a Gram-positive 300px, Violet-stained gram-positive cocci and pink-stained gram-negative bacillus (shape), bacilli In bacteriology, gram-positive bacteria are bacteria ...

Bacillus subtilis
'' inoculation may provide some benefit to growers by speeding corm growth and increasing stigma biomass yield. The plants fare poorly in shady conditions; they grow best in full sunlight. Fields that slope towards the sunlight are optimal (i.e., south-sloping in the Northern Hemisphere). Planting is mostly done in June in the Northern Hemisphere, where corms are lodged deep; its roots, stems, and leaves can develop between October and February. Planting depth and corm spacing, in concert with climate, are critical factors in determining yields. Mother corms planted deeper yield higher-quality saffron, though form fewer flower buds and daughter corms. Italian growers optimise thread yield by planting deep and in rows apart; depths of optimise flower and corm production. Greek, Moroccan, and Spanish growers employ distinct depths and spacings that suit their locales. ''C. sativus'' prefers friable, loose, low-density, well-watered, and well-drained clay-
calcareous ''Calcareous'' is an adjective meaning "mostly or partly composed of calcium carbonate Calcium carbonate is a chemical compound A chemical compound is a chemical substance composed of many identical molecules (or molecular entity, molecula ...
soils with high organic content. Traditional raised beds promote good drainage. Soil organic content was historically boosted via application of some of manure. Afterwards, and with no further manure application, corms were planted. After a period of dormancy through the summer, the corms send up their narrow leaves and begin to bud in early autumn. Only in mid-autumn do they flower. Harvests are by necessity a speedy affair: after blossoming at dawn, flowers quickly wilt as the day passes. All plants bloom within a window of one or two weeks. Stigmas are dried quickly upon extraction and (preferably) sealed in airtight containers.


Harvesting

The high retail value of saffron is maintained on world markets because of labour-intensive harvesting methods, which require some – equivalently, . Forty hours of labour are needed to pick 150,000 flowers. One freshly picked crocus flower yields on average 30 mg of fresh saffron or 7 mg dried; roughly 150 flowers yield of dry saffron threads; to produce of dried saffron, of flowers are needed; the yield of dried spice from fresh saffron is only .


Spice


Phytochemistry and sensory properties

Saffron contains some 28 volatile and aroma-yielding compounds, dominated by
ketone In chemistry Chemistry is the scientific Science () is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity or awareness, of someone or something, such as facts A fact is an occurrence i ...
s and
aldehyde Chemically, an aldehyde is a compound containing a functional group In organic chemistry, a functional group is a substituent or moiety (chemistry), moiety in a molecule that causes the molecule's characteristic chemical reactions. The same ...

aldehyde
s. Its main aroma-active compounds are – the main compound responsible for saffron aroma – 4-ketoisophorone, and dihydrooxophorone. Saffron also contains nonvolatile
phytochemical Phytochemicals are chemical compound A chemical compound is a chemical substance composed of many identical molecules (or molecular entity, molecular entities) composed of atoms from more than one chemical element, element held together by che ...
s, including the
carotenoid Carotenoids (), also called tetraterpenoids, are yellow, orange, and red organic Organic may refer to: * Organic, of or relating to an organism, a living entity * Organic, of or relating to an anatomical organ (anatomy), organ Chemistry * Organ ...
s
zeaxanthin Zeaxanthin is one of the most common carotenoid alcohols found in nature. It is important in the xanthophyll cycle. Synthesized in plants and some micro-organisms, it is the pigment that gives paprika (made from bell peppers), corn, saffron, ...

zeaxanthin
,
lycopene Lycopene (from the neo-Latin ''Lycopersicum The tomato is the edible Berry (botany), berry of the plant ''Solanum lycopersicum'', commonly known as a tomato plant. The species originated in western South America and Central America. The Nah ...

lycopene
, various α- and β-
carotene The term carotene (also carotin, from the Latin ''carota'', "carrot") is used for many related unsaturated hydrocarbon substances having the formula C40Hx, which are synthesized by plants but in general cannot be made by animals (with the exce ...

carotene
s, as well as and its
glycoside In chemistry Chemistry is the science, scientific study of the properties and behavior of matter. It is a natural science that covers the Chemical element, elements that make up matter to the chemical compound, compounds composed of atoms ...

glycoside
crocein, which are the most biologically active components. Because crocetin is smaller and more water soluble than the other carotenoids, it is more rapidly absorbed. The yellow-orange colour of saffron is primarily the result of α-crocin. This
crocin Crocin is a carotenoid Carotenoids (), also called tetraterpenoids, are yellow, orange, and red organic compound, organic pigments that are produced by plants and algae, as well as several bacteria, and fungi. Carotenoids give the characteristic ...

crocin
is trans- di-(β-D-)
ester An ester is a chemical compound A chemical compound is a chemical substance composed of many identical molecules (or molecular entity, molecular entities) composed of atoms from more than one chemical element, element held together by chemic ...

ester
; it bears the systematic (IUPAC) name 8,8-diapo-8,8-carotenoic acid. This means that the crocin underlying saffron's aroma is a digentiobiose ester of the carotenoid crocetin. Crocins themselves are a series of
hydrophilic A hydrophile is a molecule File:Pentacene on Ni(111) STM.jpg, A scanning tunneling microscopy image of pentacene molecules, which consist of linear chains of five carbon rings. A molecule is an electrically neutral group of two or more atoms ...

hydrophilic
carotenoids that are either monoglycosyl or diglycosyl
polyene Polyenes are poly- unsaturated organic compound , CH4; is among the simplest organic compounds. In chemistry, organic compounds are generally any chemical compounds that contain carbon-hydrogen chemical bond, bonds. Due to carbon's ability to C ...
esters of crocetin. Crocetin is a conjugated polyene
dicarboxylic acidA dicarboxylic acid is an organic compound , CH4; is among the simplest organic compounds. In chemistry Chemistry is the scientific discipline involved with Chemical element, elements and chemical compound, compounds composed of atoms, molecul ...
that is
hydrophobic In chemistry Chemistry is the scientific Science () is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity or awareness, of someone or something, such as facts A fact is an occurrence ...
, and thus oil-soluble. When crocetin is
esterified An ester is a chemical compound A chemical compound is a chemical substance composed of many identical molecules (or molecular entity, molecular entities) composed of atoms from more than one chemical element, element held together by chemical ...

esterified
with two water-soluble gentiobioses, which are
sugars Sugar is the generic name for Sweetness, sweet-tasting, soluble carbohydrates, many of which are used in food. Simple sugars, also called monosaccharides, include glucose, fructose, and galactose. Compound sugars, also called disaccharides o ...
, a product results that is itself water-soluble. The resultant α-crocin is a carotenoid pigment that may make up more than 10% of dry saffron's mass. The two esterified gentiobioses make α-crocin ideal for colouring water-based and non-fatty foods such as rice dishes. The bitter
glucoside A glucoside is a glycoside In chemistry Chemistry is the science, scientific study of the properties and behavior of matter. It is a natural science that covers the Chemical element, elements that make up matter to the chemical compoun ...
is responsible for saffron's pungent flavour. Picrocrocin (
chemical formula A chemical formula is a way of presenting information about the chemical proportions of atom An atom is the smallest unit of ordinary matter In classical physics and general chemistry, matter is any substance that has mass and takes ...
: ; systematic name: 4-(β-D-glucopyranosyloxy)-2,6,6-trimethylcyclohex-1-ene-1-carbaldehyde) is a union of an
aldehyde Chemically, an aldehyde is a compound containing a functional group In organic chemistry, a functional group is a substituent or moiety (chemistry), moiety in a molecule that causes the molecule's characteristic chemical reactions. The same ...

aldehyde
sub-molecule known as (systematic name: 2,6,6-trimethylcyclohexa-1,3-diene-1-carbaldehyde) and a carbohydrate. It has insecticidal and pesticidal properties, and may comprise up to 4% of dry saffron. Picrocrocin is a truncated version of the carotenoid
zeaxanthin Zeaxanthin is one of the most common carotenoid alcohols found in nature. It is important in the xanthophyll cycle. Synthesized in plants and some micro-organisms, it is the pigment that gives paprika (made from bell peppers), corn, saffron, ...

zeaxanthin
that is produced via
oxidative (mild reducing agent) are added to powdered potassium permanganate Potassium permanganate is an inorganic compound with the chemical formula KMnO4 and composed of potassium ion, K+ and permanganate, . It is a purplish-black crystalline salt, th ...

oxidative
cleavage, and is the
glycoside In chemistry Chemistry is the science, scientific study of the properties and behavior of matter. It is a natural science that covers the Chemical element, elements that make up matter to the chemical compound, compounds composed of atoms ...

glycoside
of the
terpene Terpenes () are a class of natural product A natural product is a chemical compound A chemical compound is a chemical substance composed of many identical molecules (or molecular entity, molecular entities) composed of atoms from more than ...
aldehyde Chemically, an aldehyde is a compound containing a functional group In organic chemistry, a functional group is a substituent or moiety (chemistry), moiety in a molecule that causes the molecule's characteristic chemical reactions. The same ...

aldehyde
safranal. When saffron is dried after its harvest, the heat, combined with enzymatic action, splits picrocrocin to yield
glucose Glucose is a simple with the . Glucose is the most abundant , a subcategory of s. Glucose is mainly made by and most during from water and carbon dioxide, using energy from sunlight, where it is used to make in s, the most abundant carbohydr ...

glucose
and a free safranal molecule. Safranal, a volatile oil, gives saffron much of its distinctive aroma. Safranal is less bitter than picrocrocin and may comprise up to 70% of dry saffron's volatile fraction in some samples. A second molecule underlying saffron's aroma is , which produces a scent described as saffron, dried hay-like. Chemists find this is the most powerful contributor to saffron's fragrance, despite its presence in a lesser quantity than safranal. Dry saffron is highly sensitive to fluctuating levels, and rapidly breaks down chemically in the presence of light and agents. It must, therefore, be stored away in air-tight containers to minimise contact with atmospheric oxygen. Saffron is somewhat more resistant to heat.


Grades and ISO 3632 categories

Saffron is not all of the same quality and strength. Strength is related to several factors including the amount of style picked along with the red stigma. Age of the saffron is also a factor. More style included means the saffron is less strong gram for gram because the colour and flavour are concentrated in the red stigmas. Saffron from
Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subregion is a part of a larger regio ...

Iran
, Spain and
Kashmir Kashmir, ks, کٔشیٖر, kaśīr () is the northernmost geographical region of the Indian subcontinent. Until the mid-19th century, the term "Kashmir" denoted only the Kashmir Valley The Kashmir Valley, also known as the ''Vale ...

Kashmir
is classified into various grades according to the relative amounts of red stigma and yellow styles it contains. Grades of Iranian saffron are: ''sargol'' (red stigma tips only, strongest grade), ''pushal'' or ''pushali'' (red stigmas plus some yellow style, lower strength), "bunch" saffron (red stigmas plus large amount of yellow style, presented in a tiny bundle like a miniature wheatsheaf) and ''konge'' (yellow style only, claimed to have aroma but with very little, if any, colouring potential). Grades of Spanish saffron are ''coupé'' (the strongest grade, like Iranian sargol), ''mancha'' (like Iranian pushal), and in order of further decreasing strength ''rio'', ''standard'' and ''sierra'' saffron. The word ''mancha'' in the Spanish classification can have two meanings: a general grade of saffron or a very high quality Spanish-grown saffron from a specific geographical origin. Real Spanish-grown La Mancha saffron has PDO protected status and this is displayed on the product packaging. Spanish growers fought hard for Protected Status because they felt that imports of Iranian saffron re-packaged in Spain and sold as "Spanish Mancha saffron" were undermining the genuine La Mancha brand. Similar was the case in Kashmir where imported Iranian saffron is mixed with local saffron and sold as "Kashmir brand" at a higher price. In Kashmir, saffron is mostly classified into two main categories called ''mongra'' (stigma alone) and ''lachha'' (stigmas attached with parts of the style). Countries producing less saffron do not have specialised words for different grades and may only produce one grade. Artisan producers in Europe and New Zealand have offset their higher labour charges for saffron harvesting by targeting quality, only offering extremely high-grade saffron. In addition to descriptions based on how the saffron is picked, saffron may be categorised under the international standard ISO 3632 after laboratory measurement of crocin (responsible for saffron's colour), picrocrocin (taste), and safranal (fragrance or aroma) content. However, often there is no clear grading information on the product packaging and little of the saffron readily available in the UK is labelled with ISO category. This lack of information makes it hard for customers to make informed choices when comparing prices and buying saffron. Under ISO 3632, determination of non-stigma content ("floral waste content") and other extraneous matter such as inorganic material ("
ash Ash or ashes are the solid remnants of fire BBQ. Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material in the exothermic chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction Product (chemistry), products. Fire is hot because th ...
") are also key. Grading standards are set by the
International Organization for Standardization The International Organization for Standardization (ISO ) is an international standard An international standard is a technical standard A technical standard is an established norm Norm, the Norm or NORM may refer to: In academic discipline ...
, a federation of national standards bodies. ISO 3632 deals exclusively with saffron and establishes three categories: III (poorest quality), II, and I (finest quality). Formerly there was also category IV, which was below category III. Samples are assigned categories by gauging the spice's crocin and picrocrocin content, revealed by measurements of specific spectrophotometric
absorbance In optics Optics is the branch of physics that studies the behaviour and properties of light, including its interactions with matter and the construction of optical instruments, instruments that use or Photodetector, detect it. Optics usuall ...
. Safranal is treated slightly differently and rather than there being threshold levels for each category, samples must give a reading of 20–50 for all categories. These data are measured through
spectrophotometry Spectrophotometry is a branch of electromagnetic spectroscopy concerned with the quantitative measurement of the reflection or transmission properties of a material as a function of wavelength. Spectrophotometry uses photometer A photomete ...

spectrophotometry
reports at certified testing laboratories worldwide. Higher absorbances imply greater levels of crocin, picrocrocin and safranal, and thus a greater colouring potential and therefore strength per gram. The absorbance reading of crocin is known as the "colouring strength" of that saffron. Saffron's colouring strength can range from lower than 80 (for all category IV saffron) up to 200 or greater (for category I). The world's finest samples (the selected, most red-maroon, tips of stigmas picked from the finest flowers) receive colouring strengths in excess of 250, making such saffron over three times more powerful than category IV saffron. Market prices for saffron types follow directly from these ISO categories. Sargol and coupé saffron would typically fall into ISO 3632 category I. Pushal and Mancha would probably be assigned to category II. On many saffron packaging labels, neither the ISO 3632 category nor the colouring strength (the measurement of crocin content) is displayed. However, many growers, traders, and consumers reject such lab test numbers. Some people prefer a more holistic method of sampling batches of threads for taste, aroma, pliability, and other traits in a fashion similar to that practised by experienced wine tasters. However, ISO 3632 grade and colouring strength information allow consumers to make instant comparisons between the quality of different saffron brands, without needing to purchase and sample the saffron. In particular, consumers can work out a value for money based on price per unit of colouring strength rather than price per gram, given the wide possible range of colouring strengths that different kinds of saffron can have.


Adulteration

Despite attempts at quality control and standardisation, an extensive history of saffron
adulteration An adulterant is a substance found within other substances such as food Food is any substance consumed to provide nutritional support for an organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ὀργανισμός, ''organi ...
, particularly among the cheapest grades, continues into modern times. Adulteration was first documented in Europe's Middle Ages, when those found selling adulterated saffron were executed under the ''Safranschou'' code. Typical methods include mixing in extraneous substances like
beetroot The beetroot is the taproot A taproot is a large, central, and dominant root In vascular plants, the roots are the plant organ, organs of a plant that are modified to provide anchorage for the plant and take in water and nutrients into t ...
,
pomegranate The pomegranate (''Punica granatum'') is a fruit In botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant life and a branch of biology. A botanist, plant scientist or phytologist is a scientist who speci ...

pomegranate
fibres, red-dyed silk fibres, or the saffron crocus's tasteless and odourless yellow stamens. Other methods included dousing saffron fibres with viscid substances like
honey Honey is a sweet, viscous food substance made by honey bees Honey is a sweet, viscous food substance made by honey bees and some other Bee, bees. Bees produce honey from the sugary secretions of plants (floral nectar) or from secretion ...

honey
or vegetable oil to increase their weight. Powdered saffron is more prone to adulteration, with
turmeric Turmeric (pronounced , also ) is a flowering plant Flowering plants include multiple members of the clade Angiospermae (), commonly called angiosperms. The term "angiosperm" is derived from the Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: ...
,
paprika Paprika (American English more commonly , British English more commonly ) is a spice made from dried and ground red peppers. It is traditionally made from ''Capsicum annuum'' varietals in the Longum group, which also includes chili peppers, but ...

paprika
, and other powders used as diluting fillers. Adulteration can also consist of selling mislabelled mixes of different saffron grades. Thus, high-grade Kashmiri saffron is often sold and mixed with cheaper Iranian imports; these mixes are then marketed as pure Kashmiri saffron, a development that has cost Kashmiri growers much of their income.
Safflower Safflower, ''Carthamus tinctorius'', is a highly branched, herbaceous, thistle-like annual plant 240px, Peas are an annual plant. An annual plant is a plant that completes its biological life cycle, life cycle, from germination to the produ ...

Safflower
is a common substitute sometimes sold as saffron. The spice is reportedly counterfeited with horse hair, corn silk, or shredded paper.
Tartrazine Tartrazine is a synthetic lemon yellow azo dye Azo dyes are organic compounds , CH4; is among the simplest organic compounds. In chemistry, organic compounds are generally any chemical compounds that contain carbon-hydrogen chemical bond, bonds ...

Tartrazine
or
sunset yellow Sunset yellow FCF (also known as orange yellow S, or C.I. 15985) is a petroleum-derived orange Azo compound, azo dye with a pH dependent maximum absorption at about 480 nm at pH 1 and 443 nm at pH 13 with a shoulder at 500 nm. Whe ...

sunset yellow
have been used to colour counterfeit powdered saffron. In recent years, saffron adulterated with the colouring extract of
gardenia ''Gardenia'' is a genus Genus /ˈdʒiː.nəs/ (plural genera /ˈdʒen.ər.ə/) is a taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of extant taxon, living and fossil organisms as well as Virus classification#ICTV classification, viruses. ...

gardenia
fruits has been detected in the European market. This form of fraud is difficult to detect due to the presence of
flavonoids Flavonoids (or bioflavonoids; from the Latin word ''flavus'', meaning yellow, their color in nature) are a class of polyphenol Polyphenols () are a large family of naturally occurring s characterized by multiples of units. They are abunda ...

flavonoids
and
crocin Crocin is a carotenoid Carotenoids (), also called tetraterpenoids, are yellow, orange, and red organic compound, organic pigments that are produced by plants and algae, as well as several bacteria, and fungi. Carotenoids give the characteristic ...

crocin
es in the gardenia-extracts similar to those naturally occurring in saffron. Detection methods have been developed by using
HPLC High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), formerly referred to as high-pressure liquid chromatography, is a technique in analytical chemistry Analytical chemistry studies and uses instruments and methods used to separate, identify, and ...

HPLC
and
mass spectrometry Mass spectrometry (MS) is an analytical technique that is used to measure the mass-to-charge ratio The mass-to-charge ratio (''m''/''Q'') is a physical quantity A physical quantity is a physical property of a material or system that can be Quant ...
to determine the presence of , a compound present in the fruits of gardenia, but not in saffron.


Types

The various saffron crocus cultivars give rise to thread types that are often regionally distributed and characteristically distinct. Varieties (not varieties in the botanical sense) from Spain, including the tradenames "Spanish Superior" and "Creme", are generally mellower in colour, flavour, and aroma; they are graded by government-imposed standards. Italian varieties are slightly more potent than Spanish. Greek saffron produced in the town of
Krokos 200px, A saffron crocus flower. Krokos ( el, Κρόκος) is a small Greek town, 5 km south of the city of Kozani located in the geographical region of Macedonia (Greece), Western Macedonia, in Greece. It was the seat of the municipality of E ...
is PDO protected due to its particularly high-quality colour and strong flavour. Various "boutique" crops are available from New Zealand, France, Switzerland, England, the United States, and other countries—some of them organically grown. In the US, Pennsylvania Dutch saffron—known for its "earthy" notes—is marketed in small quantities. Consumers may regard certain cultivars as "premium" quality. The "Aquila" saffron, or ''zafferano dell'Aquila'', is defined by high safranal and crocin content, distinctive thread shape, unusually pungent aroma, and intense colour; it is grown exclusively on eight hectares in the Navelli Valley of Italy's
Abruzzo Abruzzo (, , ; nap, label=Neapolitan language, Abruzzese Neapolitan, Abbrùzze , ''Abbrìzze'' or ''Abbrèzze'' ; nap, label=Sabino dialect, Aquilano, Abbrùzzu) or Abruzzi is a Regions of Italy, region of Southern Italy with an area of 10,763 ...

Abruzzo
region, near
L'Aquila L'Aquila ( , ; meaning "The Eagle") is a city and ''comune'' in central Italy. It is the capital city of both the Abruzzo region and of the Province of L'Aquila. , it has a population of 70,967 inhabitants. Laid out within medieval walls on a hi ...
. It was first introduced to Italy by a Dominican friar from inquisition-era Spain. But the biggest saffron cultivation in Italy is in
San Gavino Monreale San Gavino Monreale ( Sardinian: Santu ‘Engiu) is a ''comune The (; plural: ) is a basic Administrative division, constituent entity of Italy, roughly equivalent to a township or municipality. Importance and function The provides many ...
, Sardinia, where it is grown on 40 hectares, representing 60% of Italian production; it too has unusually high crocin, picrocrocin, and safranal content. Another is the "Mongra" or "Lacha" saffron of Kashmir (''Crocus sativus'' 'Cashmirianus'), which is among the most difficult for consumers to obtain. Repeated droughts, blights, and crop failures in Kashmir combined with an Indian export ban, contribute to its prohibitive overseas prices. Kashmiri saffron is recognizable by its dark maroon-purple hue, making it among the world's darkest. In 2020,
Kashmir Valley #REDIRECT Kashmir Valley The Kashmir Valley, also known as the ''Vale of Kashmir'', is an intermontane valley in Kashmir Kashmir, ks, کٔشیٖر, kaśīr is the northernmost geographical region of the Indian subcontinent. Until t ...

Kashmir Valley
saffron was certified with a
geographical indication A geographical indication (GI) is a name or sign used on products which corresponds to a specific geographical location or origin (e.g., a town, region, or country). The use of a geographical indication, as an indication of the product's source, ...
from the Government of India.


Production

Almost all saffron grows in a belt from Spain in the west to
Kashmir Kashmir, ks, کٔشیٖر, kaśīr () is the northernmost geographical region of the Indian subcontinent. Until the mid-19th century, the term "Kashmir" denoted only the Kashmir Valley The Kashmir Valley, also known as the ''Vale ...

Kashmir
in the east. In 2014, were produced worldwide.
Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subregion is a part of a larger regio ...

Iran
is responsible for 90–93% of global production, with much of their produce exported. In the 21st century, cultivation in
Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, Elláda, ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeastern Europe Southeast Europe or Southeastern Europe () is a geographical subregion A subregion is a part of a larger region In geogr ...

Greece
and
Afghanistan Afghanistan (; Pashto Pashto (,; / , ), sometimes spelled Pukhto or Pakhto, is an Eastern Iranian language The Eastern Iranian languages are a subgroup of the Iranian languages The Iranian or Iranic languages are a branch of t ...

Afghanistan
increased.
Morocco ) , image_map = Morocco (orthographic projection, WS claimed).svg , map_caption = Location of Morocco in northwest Africa.Dark green: Undisputed territory of Morocco.Lighter green: Western Sahara, a United Nations lis ...

Morocco
and India were minor producers. In Italy, saffron is produced primarily in
Southern Italy Southern Italy ( it, Sud Italia; nap, 'o Sudde; scn, Italia dû Sud), also known as ''Meridione'' or ''Mezzogiorno'' (, literally "Midday"; in nap, 'o Miezojuorno; in scn, Mezzujornu), is a macroregionA macroregion is a geopolitical subdivis ...
, especially in the
Abruzzo Abruzzo (, , ; nap, label=Neapolitan language, Abruzzese Neapolitan, Abbrùzze , ''Abbrìzze'' or ''Abbrèzze'' ; nap, label=Sabino dialect, Aquilano, Abbrùzzu) or Abruzzi is a Regions of Italy, region of Southern Italy with an area of 10,763 ...

Abruzzo
region, but it is also grown in significant numbers in
Basilicata it, Lucano (man) it, Lucana (woman) , population_note = , population_blank1_title = , population_blank1 = , demographics_type1 = , demographics1_footnotes = , demographics1_title1 = , demographics1_info1 = ...
,
Sardegna Sardinia ( ; it, Sardegna ; sc, Sardigna and , also ''Saldigna'', ''Sardíngia'', ''Sardinna'', ''Sardinza''; sdc, Sardhigna; sdn, Saldigna; ca, label=Algherese dialect, Algherese, Sardenya; lij, label=Tabarchino, Sardegna) is the Medi ...

Sardegna
, and
Tuscany it, Toscano (man) it, Toscana (woman) , population_note = , population_blank1_title = , population_blank1 = , demographics_type1 = Citizenship , demographics1_footnotes = , demographics1_title1 = Italian , demogra ...
(especially in
San Gimignano San Gimignano () is a small walled Middle Ages, medieval hill town in the province of Siena, Tuscany, north-central Italy. Known as ''the Town of Fine Towers'', San Gimignano is famous for its medieval architecture, unique in the preservation of a ...

San Gimignano
). Prohibitively high labour costs and abundant Iranian imports mean that only select locales continue the tedious harvest in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland—among them the Swiss village of
Mund Mund is a former municipality A municipality is usually a single administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivisio ...
, whose annual output is a few kilograms. Microscale production of saffron can be found in Australia (mainly the state of Tasmania), Canada, Central Africa, China, Egypt, parts of England France, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, Sweden (
Gotland Gotland (, ; ''Gutland'' in the local dialect), also historically spelled Gottland or Gothland (), is Sweden's largest island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounded by a dramatically different habita ...
), Turkey (mainly around the town of
Safranbolu Safranbolu () is a town and district of Karabük Province in the Black Sea Region, Black Sea region of Turkey. It is about 9 km north of the city of Karabük, north of Ankara and about 100 km south of the Black Sea coast. The town's hist ...

Safranbolu
), the United States (California and Pennsylvania). Greece is a saffron producer with a history of 3 centuries of cultivation of a saffron called ''Krokos Kozanis'', having started exports to the United States in 2017.


Trade

Saffron prices at wholesale and retail rates range from . In Western countries, the average retail price in 1974 was . In February 2013, a retail bottle containing could be purchased for $16.26 or the equivalent of , or as little as about in larger quantities. There are between . Vivid crimson colouring, slight moistness, elasticity, and lack of broken-off thread debris are all traits of fresh saffron.


Uses

Saffron has a long history of use in
traditional medicine Traditional medicine (also known as indigenous Indigenous may refer to: *Indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autochthonous people, are culturally distinct ethnic gr ...

traditional medicine
. Saffron has also been used as a fabric
dye A dye is a color Color (American English) or colour (Commonwealth English) is the visual perception, visual perceptual Physical property, property corresponding in humans to the categories called ''blue'', ''green'', ''red'', etc. Colo ...
, particularly in China and India, and in perfumery. It is used for religious purposes in India.


Consumption

Saffron's aroma is often described by connoisseurs as reminiscent of metallic honey with grassy or hay-like notes, while its taste has also been noted as hay-like and sweet. Saffron also contributes a luminous yellow-orange colouring to foods. Saffron is widely used in Persian, Indian, European, and Arab cuisines. Confectioneries and liquors also often include saffron. Saffron is used in dishes ranging from the jewelled rice and ''
khoresh Khoresh ( fa, خورش) or Khoresht ( fa, خورشت, ckb, خۆرشت) is a generic Iranian languages, Iranian term for stew dishes in the Iranian cuisine, Afghan cuisine, Tajik cuisine and also Kurdish cuisine. The word is a substantive of the ...
'' of Iran, the Milanese ''
risotto Risotto (, , from meaning "rice") is a northern Italian Northern Italy ( it, Italia settentrionale, it, Nord Italia, label=none, it, Alta Italia, label=none or just it, Nord, label=none) is a geographical and cultural region in the northern ...

risotto
'' of Italy, the ''
paella Paella ( , , ) is a rice dish originally from Valencia Valencia ( va, València) is the capital of the autonomous community eu, autonomia erkidegoa ca, comunitat autònoma gl, comunidade autónoma oc, comunautat autonòma an, comunid ...

paella
'' of Spain, the ''
bouillabaisse Bouillabaisse (; oc, bolhabaissa, bullabessa ) is a traditional Provençal fish stew A stew is a combination of solid food ingredients that have been Cooking, cooked in Soup, liquid and served in the resultant gravy. Ingredients in a stew ca ...

bouillabaisse
'' of France, to the ''
biryani Biryani () is a mixed rice dish originating among the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent. It is made with Indian spices Indian spices include a variety of spices grown across the Indian subcontinent (a sub-region of South Asia). With ...

biryani
'' with various meat accompaniments in South Asia. One of the most esteemed use for saffron is in the preparation of the ''Golden Ham'', a precious dry-cured
ham Ham is pork Pork is the culinary name for the meat of a domestic pig The domestic pig (''Sus scrofa domesticus'' or only ''Sus domesticus''), often called swine, hog, or simply pig when there is no need to distinguish it from other ...

ham
made with saffron from
San Gimignano San Gimignano () is a small walled Middle Ages, medieval hill town in the province of Siena, Tuscany, north-central Italy. Known as ''the Town of Fine Towers'', San Gimignano is famous for its medieval architecture, unique in the preservation of a ...

San Gimignano
. Common saffron substitutes include
safflower Safflower, ''Carthamus tinctorius'', is a highly branched, herbaceous, thistle-like annual plant 240px, Peas are an annual plant. An annual plant is a plant that completes its biological life cycle, life cycle, from germination to the produ ...

safflower
(''Carthamus tinctorius'', which is often sold as "Portuguese saffron" or "açafrão"),
annatto Annatto ( or ) is an orange-red condiment A condiment is a sauce In , a sauce is a , , or semi- food, served on or used in preparing other s. Most sauces are not normally consumed by themselves; they add flavor, moisture, and visual ap ...

annatto
, and
turmeric Turmeric (pronounced , also ) is a flowering plant Flowering plants include multiple members of the clade Angiospermae (), commonly called angiosperms. The term "angiosperm" is derived from the Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: ...
(''Curcuma longa''). In
Medieval In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe since the beginning of ...
Europe, turmeric was also known as "Indian saffron" because of its yellow-orange color.


Nutrition

Dried saffron is 65%
carbohydrates is a disaccharide A disaccharide (also called a double sugar or ''biose'') is the sugar Sugar is the generic name for sweet-tasting, soluble carbohydrate is a disaccharide found in animal milk. It consists of a molecule of D-galacto ...
, 6% fat, 11%
protein Proteins are large biomolecule , showing alpha helices, represented by ribbons. This poten was the first to have its suckture solved by X-ray crystallography by Max Perutz and Sir John Cowdery Kendrew in 1958, for which they received a No ...

protein
(table) and 12% water. In one
tablespoon A tablespoon is a large spoon A spoon is a utensil consisting of a small shallow bowl (also known as a head), oval or round, at the end of a handle. A type of cutlery (sometimes called flatware in the United States), especially as part of a ta ...
(2 grams; a quantity much larger than is likely to be ingested in normal use)
manganese Manganese is a chemical element In chemistry, an element is a pure Chemical substance, substance consisting only of atoms that all have the same numbers of protons in their atomic nucleus, nuclei. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical e ...

manganese
is present as 29% of the
Daily Value The Reference Daily Intake (RDI) used in nutrition labeling on food and dietary supplement products in the U.S. and Canada is the daily intake level of a nutrient A nutrient is a substance used by an organism to survive, grow, and reproduce. The ...
, while other
micronutrient Micronutrients are essential dietary elements required by organism In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, ...
s have negligible content (table).


Toxicity

Ingesting less than of saffron is not toxic for humans, but doses greater than can become increasingly toxic. Mild toxicity includes dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, whereas at higher doses there can be reduced
platelet Platelets, also called thrombocytes (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. ...

platelet
count and spontaneous bleeding.


Storage

Saffron will not spoil, but will lose flavour within six months if not stored in an airtight, cool, dark, place. Freezer storage can maintain flavour for up to two years.


Research

Gene In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Physiology, physiological mecha ...

Gene
s and
transcription factor In molecular biology Molecular biology is the branch of biology that seeks to understand the molecule, molecular basis of biological activity in and between Cell (biology), cells, including biomolecule, molecular synthesis, modification, m ...
s involved in the pathway for carotenoid synthesis responsible for the colour, flavour and aroma of saffron were under study in 2017. Saffron constituents, such as
crocin Crocin is a carotenoid Carotenoids (), also called tetraterpenoids, are yellow, orange, and red organic compound, organic pigments that are produced by plants and algae, as well as several bacteria, and fungi. Carotenoids give the characteristic ...

crocin
, , and , were under preliminary research for their potential to affect mental depression. Saffron has also been studied for its possible beneficial effect on cardiovascular risk factors, such as lipid profile, Blood sugar level, blood glucose, weight, and in erectile dysfunction, however no strong supporting Evidence-based medicine, high-quality clinical evidence exists, as of 2020.


History

Some doubts remain on the origin of saffron, but it is believed that saffron originated in Iran. However, Greece and Mesopotamia have also been suggested as the possible region of origin of this plant. Harold McGee states that it was domesticated in or near Greece during the Bronze Age. ''C. sativus'' is possibly a triploid form of '' Crocus cartwrightianus'', which is also known as "wild saffron". Saffron crocus slowly propagated throughout much of
Eurasia Eurasia () is the largest continent A continent is any of several large landmass A landmass, or land mass, is a large region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a ...

Eurasia
and was later brought to parts of North Africa, North America, and Oceania.


West Asia

Saffron was detailed in a 7th-century BC Assyrian botanical reference compiled under Ashurbanipal. Documentation of saffron's use over the span of 3,500 years has been uncovered. Saffron-based pigments have indeed been found in 50,000-year-old depictions of prehistoric places in northwest Iran. The Sumerians later used wild-growing saffron in their remedies and magical potions. Saffron was an article of long-distance trade before the Minoan palace culture's 2nd millennium BC peak. Ancient Persians cultivated Persian saffron (''Crocus sativus'' 'Hausknechtii') in Derbent, Isfahan, and Greater Khorasan, Khorasan by the 10th century BC. At such sites, saffron threads were woven into textiles, ritually offered to divinities, and used in dyes, perfumes, medicines, and body washes. Saffron threads would thus be scattered across beds and mixed into hot teas as a curative for bouts of melancholy. Non-Persians also feared the Persians' usage of saffron as a drugging agent and aphrodisiac. During his Asian campaigns, Alexander the Great used Persian saffron in his infusions, rice, and baths as a curative for battle wounds. Alexander's troops imitated the practice from the Persians and brought saffron-bathing to Greece.


South Asia

Conflicting theories explain saffron's arrival in South Asia. Kashmiri and Chinese accounts date its arrival anywhere between 2500 and 900 years ago. Historians studying ancient Persian records date the arrival to sometime prior to 500 BC, attributing it to a Persian transplantation of saffron corms to stock new gardens and parks. Phoenicians then marketed Kashmiri saffron as a dye and a treatment for melancholy. Its use in foods and dyes subsequently spread throughout South Asia. Buddhist monks wear saffron-coloured robes; however, the robes are not dyed with costly saffron but
turmeric Turmeric (pronounced , also ) is a flowering plant Flowering plants include multiple members of the clade Angiospermae (), commonly called angiosperms. The term "angiosperm" is derived from the Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: ...
, a less expensive dye, or jackfruit. Monks' robes are dyed the same colour to show equality with each other, and turmeric or ochre were the cheapest, most readily available dyes. Gamboge is now used to dye the robes.


East Asia

Some historians believe that saffron came to China with Mongol invaders from Persia. Yet saffron is mentioned in ancient Chinese medical texts, including the forty-volume ''Shennong Bencaojing'', a pharmacopoeia written around 300–200 BC. Traditionally credited to the legendary Yan Emperor and the deity Shennong, it discusses 252 plant-based medical treatments for various disorders. Nevertheless, around the 3rd century AD, the Chinese were referring to saffron as having a Kashmiri provenance. According to the herbalist Wan Zhen, "the habitat of saffron is in Kashmir, where people grow it principally to offer it to the Buddha." Wan also reflected on how it was used in his time: "The flower withers after a few days, and then the saffron is obtained. It is valued for its uniform yellow colour. It can be used to aromatise wine."


South East Mediterranean

The Minoan civilization, Minoans portrayed saffron in their palace frescoes by 1600–1500 BC; they hint at its possible use as a therapeutic drug. Ancient Greek legends told of sea voyages to Cilicia, where adventurers sought what they believed were the world's most valuable threads. Another legend tells of Crocus and Smilax, whereby Crocus is bewitched and transformed into the first saffron crocus. Ancient perfumers in Egypt, physicians in Gaza City, Gaza, townspeople in Rhodes, and the Greek ''hetaerae'' courtesans used saffron in their scented waters, perfumes and potpourris, mascaras and ointments, divine offerings, and medical treatments. In late Ptolemaic dynasty, Ptolemaic Egypt, Cleopatra VII of Egypt, Cleopatra used saffron in her baths so that lovemaking would be more pleasurable. Egyptian healers used saffron as a treatment for all varieties of gastrointestinal ailments. Saffron was also used as a fabric dye in such Levantine cities as Sidon and Tyre (Lebanon), Tyre in Lebanon. Aulus Cornelius Celsus prescribes saffron in medicines for wounds, cough, colic, and scabies, and in the mithridatium.


Western Europe

Saffron was a notable ingredient in certain Roman recipes such as jusselle and conditum. (Reprinted verbatim from a rare manuscript in the Holkham Collection.) Such was the Romans' love of saffron that Roman colonists took it with them when they settled in southern Gaul, where it was extensively cultivated until Rome's fall. With this fall, European saffron cultivation plummeted. Competing theories state that saffron only returned to France with 8th-century AD Moors or with the Avignon papacy in the 14th century AD. Similarly, the spread of Islamic civilisation may have helped reintroduce the crop to Spain and Italy. The 14th-century Black Death caused demand for saffron-based medicaments to peak, and Europe imported large quantities of threads via Venetian and Genoan ships from southern and Mediterranean lands such as Rhodes. The theft of one such shipment by noblemen sparked the fourteen-week-long Saffron War. The conflict and resulting fear of rampant saffron piracy spurred corm cultivation in Basel; it thereby grew prosperous. The crop then spread to Nuremberg, where endemic and insalubrious adulteration brought on the ''Safranschou'' code—whereby culprits were variously fined, imprisoned, and executed. Meanwhile, cultivation continued in southern France, Italy, and Spain. The Essex town of Saffron Walden, named for its new specialty crop, emerged as a prime saffron growing and trading centre in the 16th and 17th centuries but cultivation there was abandoned; saffron was re-introduced around 2013 as well as other parts of the UK (Cheshire).


The Americas

Europeans introduced saffron to the Americas when immigrant members of the Schwenkfelder Church left Europe with a trunk containing its corms. Church members had grown it widely in Europe. By 1730, the Pennsylvania Dutch cultivated saffron throughout eastern Pennsylvania. Spanish colonies in the Caribbean bought large amounts of this new American saffron, and high demand ensured that saffron's list price on the Philadelphia commodities exchange was equal to gold. Trade with the Caribbean later collapsed in the aftermath of the War of 1812, when many saffron-bearing merchant vessels were destroyed. Yet the Pennsylvania Dutch continued to grow lesser amounts of saffron for local trade and use in their cakes, noodles, and chicken or trout dishes. American saffron cultivation survives into modern times, mainly in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. File:860808-Saffronfarm-07-IMG 7888-2.jpg, Saffron Farm, Torbat-e Heydarieh, Torbat-e-Heydarieh File:Saffronfarm-860808.jpg, Saffron Farm, Torbat-e Heydarieh, Torbat-e-Heydarieh


References


Bibliography

Books * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


External links

* * {{Authority control Saffron, Crocus, Saffron Food colorings Incense material Arab cuisine Greek cuisine Indian spices Iranian cuisine Iraqi cuisine Spices Spanish cuisine