5 min read
Read on to discover the:
- History of the Saffron Flower
- Saffron Specs
- Fun Facts
- Use in Cuisine
- Medicinal Use
- Commercial Success
- How to Grow Your Own
History of the Saffron Flower
The saffron flower, known scientifically as the crocus sativus, is a member of the iris family, which is comprised of around 90 different species. The sativus is a domesticated variety, with many believing it to have been a triploid plant cultivated from the crocus cartwrightianus, which has been sometimes known as the wild saffron flower and thought to originate from central Asia or perhaps Crete. The sativus is a perennial flowering plant, which blooms in the autumn season. Some believe it to have originally been cultivated in Iran, with others pointing to Mesopotamia or perhaps Greece as its origin. It is well-known for the threads it produces, which are sold around the world as a spice. It has been cultivated for nearly 3,500 years, with reports of it as far back as the 7th century B.C.
The crocus sativus grows out of a corm, a bulbous tuber that germinates underground. It grows anywhere from 10 to 30 cm in height. The plant grows between five or more white or purple leaves called cataphylls. These cataphylls have a somewhat membrane-like appearance and protect the leaves as they blossom. The green leaves are flat in appearance, somewhat like a blade. The saffron flower has bracteoles, which are a kind of specialized leaf with flower stems, known as pedicels. Once it has bloomed, it releases another set of true leaves, which are beautifully colored, generally a lavender color. Each plant bears around four flowers, with a three-pronged style emerging from each bloom. At the end of each of these prongs grows a deep, red stigma, which has made the saffron plant famous for its use in cuisine.
The sativus has a long history in the world, and as such has gathered much symbolism and meaning alongside itself. Some of the more common associations are feelings of happiness and joy, with a gift of saffron being a way to send positive vibes and energy to another. It is thought to relate to the emotions of youth as well, and childlike wonder. It was commonly used in roman households as a perfume for guests as they entered the abode. The name crocus sativus is thought to originate from the Greek god Krokus, who upon his death became the flower, as well as the Arabic word “zafaran,” which means yellow.
There have been some interesting uses of saffron in mythology and ancient history, from gods to queens. Zeus himself was said to sleep on a bed of saffron. Even Queen Cleopatra of Egypt was said to spray it on her guests as it was considered an aphrodisiac. Alexander the great, one of histories most beloved knowledge seekers, was said to soak his soldiers in baths of saffron because he believed it cured all illnesses.
Use in Cuisine
The stigmas and styles, commonly called threads, which are collected from the saffron flower are used in a variety of cuisine around the world. It is an extremely fragrant spice, with many associating its smell to a kind of strong honey mixed with hay. It has a sweet and hay-like taste as well. It is sometimes used simply for coloring, as it gives a glowing orange-yellow look to most food, somewhat like turmeric. Within the middle east, European, and Indian cuisine it can be found in meals ranging from the khoresh of Iran, risotto in Milan, bouillabaisse in France, to even paella in Spain. in san Gimignano, one of the most expensive and highly valued uses of saffron is within their dry-cured ham dish, named the golden ham.
Within the world of traditional medicine, the saffron stigmas have been used in the treatment of a variety of ailments. Issues of the lungs such as asthma, coughs, phlegm problems, and even whooping cough have been treated with saffron. Some use it for insomnia, as well as intestinal issues. There has been some legitimate research done that has shown some positive effects on issues such as premenstrual syndrome, and menstrual discomfort. Other studies have found benefits towards symptoms of Alzheimer’s, while others have seen it help with depression.
Saffron is by weight the most expensive product sold throughout the world. With nearly 90 percent of exports coming out of Iran, it has become an immense cash crop. Although Iran has a huge monopoly on the plants’ production, many countries around the world still produce small amounts due to the potential for profit. From its use in medicine, as well as in cuisine, saffron sales have never been better. The plant is also used for a variety of other purposes, such as in the fabric dyes, perfumery, and in religious ceremonies, especially in countries such as China and India. The immense retail value of saffron remains high due to the intensive labor required to harvest even a small amount of saffron, with a single pound of saffron requiring nearly 70,000 crocus flowers.
How to Grow Your Own
The crocus sativus requires full sunlight to grow best, with it growing in typically hot and summery climates. The corms must be planted around 15 cm deep, with a good spacing around them for proper growth. The plants need well-drained soil, with a high amount of organic material recommended. Water well and fertilize at least once a month.
The Gorgeous Saffron
With its use in cuisine so prevalent, the saffron flowers ability to grace our plates and homes is assured for many generations to come. It is sometimes forgotten how beautiful the flower is, so for those looking to add some color and fragrance to their gardens and indoors, the saffron flower is a wonderful addition to any home. Having your own fresh saffron spice is a bonus as well. Don’t miss out!