Saffron,the Costly Spice

Botanical Name :Crocus sativus
Family: Iridaceae
Subfamily: Crocoideae
Genus: Crocus
Species: C. sativus
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asparagales

Common Name :Saffron

Habitat :Saffron  is native to Greece or Southwest Asia and was first cultivated in Greece. As a genetically monomorphic clone, it was slowly propagated throughout much of Eurasia and was later brought to parts of North Africa, North America, and Oceania.

The domesticated saffron crocus, Crocus sativus, is an autumn-flowering perennial plant unknown in the wild. Its progenitors are possibly the eastern Mediterranean autumn-flowering Crocus cartwrightianus, which is also known as “wild saffron” and originated in Greece. The saffron crocus likely resulted when C. cartwrightianus was subjected to extensive artificial selection by growers seeking longer stigmas. C. thomasii and C. pallasii are other possible sources

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Saffron crocus grows to 20–30 cm (8–12 in) and bears up to four flowers, each with three vivid crimson stigmas, which are the distal end of a carpel. Together with the styles, or stalks that connect the stigmas to their host plant, the dried stigmas are used mainly in various cuisines as a seasoning and colouring agent. Saffron, long among the world’s most costly spices by weight,

Saffron : is a spice derived from the flower of the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus), a species of crocus in the family Iridaceae. The flower has three stigmas, which are the distal ends of the plant’s carpels. Together with its style, the stalk connecting the stigmas to the rest of the plant, these components are often dried and used in cooking as a seasoning and colouring agent. Saffron, which has for decades been the world’s most expensive spice by weight, is native to Southwest Asia. It was first cultivated in the vicinity of Greece.

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Saffron is characterised by a bitter taste and an iodoform- or hay-like fragrance; these are caused by the chemicals picrocrocin and safranal. It also contains a carotenoid dye, crocin, that gives food a rich golden-yellow hue. These traits make saffron a much-sought ingredient in many foods worldwide. Saffron also has medicinal applications.

The word saffron originated from the 12th-century Old French term safran, which derives from the Latin word safranum. Safranum is also related to the Italian zafferano and Spanish azafrán. Safranum comes from the Arabic word aá¹£far (أَصْفَر‎), which means “yellow,” via the paronymous zaÊ»farān (زَعْفَرَان‎), the name of the spice in Arabic. Yet, some others believe it has a Persian root, i.e “Zarparan”زَرپَران. Zarزر meaning gold + parپر meaning feather, or stigma. Proponents of this theory cite the cultivation in the plateau of Iran as evidence.

The most precious and expensive spice in the world is saffron. The Saffron
filaments, or threads, are actually the dried stigmas of the saffron flower, “Crocus Sativus Linneaus”. Each flower contains only three stigmas. These threads must be picked from each flower by hand, and more than 75,000 of these flowers are needed to produce just one pound of Saffron filaments, making it the world’s most precious spice.
But, because of saffron’s strong coloring power and intense flavor, it can be used sparingly. Saffron is used both for its bright orange-yellow color and for its strong, intense flavor and aroma.
“Crocus Sativus Linneaus” contains crocin, the source of its strong coloring property, bitter-crocin, which offers the distinctive aroma and taste and essential oils, which are responsible for its therapeutic properties.
Saffron is available both in filaments and powder, though the long, deep red filaments are usually preferable to the powder as the latter can be easily adulterated.
Today, the greatest saffron producing countries are Greece, Spain, Turkey, Iran, India, and Morocco. The largest saffron importers are Germany, Italy, U.S.A., Switzerland, U.K., and France.

Prefers a well-drained sandy or loamy soil that is free from clay. Prefers a sunny position. Grows well on calcareous soils and on hot sheltered stony banks. Plants are very frost hardy. They also thrive in areas with poor summers, though they usually fail to flower in such conditions. Plants produce less saffron when grown on rich soils. They do not flower very freely in Britain. Saffron has been cultivated for over 4,000 years for the edible dye obtained from the flower stigmas. It was at one time commercially grown in Britain and the town Saffron Walden obtained its name because of this. There is at least one named form. ‘Cashmirianus’ comes from Kashmir and has large high quality corms. It yields about 27 kilos of rich orange stigmas per hectare. When inhaled near to, the flowers have a delicate perfume. Unlike most members of this genus, the flowers do not close of a night time or in dull weather. The flowers are only produced after hot, dry summers. Plants tend to move considerably from their original planting place because of their means of vegetative reproduction, it is therefore wise not to grow different species in close proximity. Any planting out is best done in late spring or early summer. Plants take 4 – 5 years to come into flowering from seed.
Seed – according to some reports this species is a sterile triploid and so does not produce fertile seed. However, if seed is obtained then it is best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Stored seed can be sown in the spring in a cold frame. Germination can take 1 – 6 months at 18°c. Unless the seed has been sown too thickly, do not transplant the seedlings in their first year of growth, but give them regular liquid feeds to make sure they do not become deficient. Divide the small bulbs once the plants have died down, planting 2 – 3 bulbs per 8cm pot. Grow them on for another 2 years in a greenhouse or frame and plant them out into their permanent positions when dormant in late summer. It takes 3 years for plants to flower from seed. Division of the clumps in late summer after the plant has died down. The bulbs can be planted out direct into their permanent positions.
A brief Histry:
It was not defined well when saffron cultivation began, but it is believed that this might have happened during Prehistoric Greek times. The excavations in Knossos, Crete, and Akrotiri in the island of Santorini brought to light some frescoes where saffron is depicted.
The most famous of these frescoes is the ’saffron gatherer’, where it was depicted that there was a monkey amongst the yellow saffron flowers. Etymologically, the word crocus has its origin from the Greek word “croci” which means the weft, thread used for weaving on a loom. Mythologically, according to Ovidius, the plant took its name from the youth Crocus, who after witnessing in despair the death of fair Smilax was transformed into this flower.

Known since antiquity, saffron it was one of the most desired and expensive spices of ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Romans for its aroma, color and aphrodisiac properties. It was quite popular among the Phoenician traders, who carried it wherever they traveled. The ancient Assyrians used saffron for medical purposes.

Hippocrates and other Greek doctors of his time, like Dioskourides and Galinos mention crocus as a drug or a therapeutical herb. From the writings of Homer who calls dawn, “crocus veil”, Aeschylus, Pindaros, and others, we know that the crocus was considered a rare pharmaceutical plant of ancient Greece with unique properties. It is referred throughout ancient history and in the course of many medical writings of the classical Greek and Roman times all the way to the Middle Ages. Another saffron use in ancient Greece was that of perfumery. The history of red saffron in modern Greece starts in the 17th century when red saffron was cultivated in the area of Kozani in Macedonia. For more than 300 years, Greek red saffron is systematically cultivated under the warmth of the Greek sun, in the rich soil of a unique area including many small towns of Kozani in West Macedonia
As a therapeutical plant, saffron it is considered an excellent stomach ailment and an antispasmodic, helps digestion and increases appetite. It is also relieves renal colic, reduces stomachaches and relieves tension. During the last years it was used as a drug for flu-like infections, depression, hypatomegaly and as a sedative for its essential oils. It is also considered that in small quantities it regulates women’s menstruation, and helps conception.

It is a fact that even since antiquity, crocus was attributed to have aphrodisiac properties. Many writers along with Greek mythology sources associate crocus with fertility. Crocus in general is an excellent stimulant.
The basic ingredient of crocus is crocin, the source of its strong coloring property. In antiquity it was a very rare and expensive substance and the color it produced and signified a high status or royalty. Romans used it to dye their hair and the “purple carpet” of saffron of Irish kings was such impressive examples.
As a spice it is used for colouring and flavor improving while giving a distinct aroma and a beautiful golden color. There is a great list of foods where saffron is added including cheese products such as cottage cheese and parmesan, soups, chicken and meat, various spirits, pasta and rice. To use saffron, either infuse a few threads in a cup of hot water and add the coloured liquid towards the end of cooking, or crumble the threads and add directly to the pot.

Alternatively, dry roast, crumble and then steep the crumbled threads. Unlike other spices, a good pinch will suffice to add flavor and color most dishes. Cook with red Greek saffron and indulge in its excellent flavor.
Greek Red Saffron, is distinguished for its excellent quality, which places it in the top quality of Saffron in the world. A small quantity of saffron adds an exquisite flavor, color and aroma in all your dishes such as pasta, rice, soups, sauces, poultry, meat, fish. Krokos Kozanis is perfectly pure and combined with coffee or tea forms an excellent beverage.
Here you can find some indicative recipes where the use of Greek Saffron adds its special characteristics to your dish.
Medicinal Uses:
Saffron is a famous medicinal herb with a long history of effective use, though it is little used at present because cheaper and more effective herbs are available. The flower styles and stigmas are the parts used, but since these are very small and fiddly to harvest they are very expensive and consequently often adulterated by lesser products. The styles and stigmas are anodyne, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, appetizer, carminative, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, sedative and stimulant. They are used as a diaphoretic for children, to treat chronic haemorrhages in the uterus of adults, to induce menstruation, treat period pains and calm indigestion and colic. A dental analgesic is obtained from the stigmas. The styles are harvested in the autumn when the plant is in flower and are dried for later use, they do not store well and should be used within 12 months. This remedy should be used with caution, large doses can be narcotic and quantities of 10g or more can cause an abortion.
The legendary ayurvedic physician Charaka compiled the first Indian medical and botanical encyclopaedia in the first century AD. Since then voluminous documentation has been done on herbal medicine as well as saffron’s therapeutic properties. Both the Ayurvedic and Unani schools of medicine propagate the use of saffron:

* For curing respiratory problems
* To treat alcoholism
* To treat acne and skin diseases
* Used in medicines that reduce inflamation
* For treatment of enlarged liver and infection of urinary bladder and kidneys
* As an ingredient in recipes for treating menstrual disorders
* For strengthening the heart and as a refrigerant for the brain
* As a diuretic
* For treating diabetic patients
* As an anti-depressant and relaxant
* As aphrodisiac for impotency
* Prolonging vitality

Other Uses: …Dye…..The yellow dye obtained from the stigmas has been used for many centuries to colour cloth. It is the favoured colouring for the cloth of Indian swamis who have renounced the material world. A blue or green dye is obtained from the petals.

Known Hazards:  The plant is poisonous. The plant is perfectly safe in normal usage but 5 – 10 grams of saffron has been known to cause death.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


Safron has many other uses in Ayurveda
(Partly extracted from:

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