Crocus sativus

The saffron plant is a crocus species of the lily family that was originally native to the Near East. Saffron derives its name from the Arabic and means roughly “to be yellow“, in reference to its strong colouring effect. The saffron bulb produces a lilac-coloured flower with stigmas that provide the precious spice. The stigmas are harvested by hand and dried, being then sold as dried threads or pulverised. Some 100,000 stigmas are required to make one kilogram of saffron spice. Cultivating and harvesting saffron is a complex and tedious process, which makes it an exclusive and expensive spice for special occasions.

Countries of origin

Spain, France, Asia, India, Iran
Saffron was presumably first cultivated in Asia Minor. The Egyptians and Romans used it as a medicine, perfume and food seasoning. The Moors later introduced the spice to Spain, from where it soon reached France. Today, saffron is grown in Greece, Italy, South America and Iran, although Spain is considered to be the principal supplier.

Flavour and aroma

Saffron has an entirely unique character. Its aroma is very intense and heavy, its flavour spicy and slightly bittersweet. Saffron is a colorant for rice dishes (Spanish paella), bouillabaisse, baked goods, butter, cheese, soups, sauces and liqueurs. Saffron is expensive, but the pungency of its threads is unparalleled. It takes only a pinch of the costly spice to enhance the flavour and colour of foods. Saffron is primarily used today in exotic dishes together with high quality ingredients. For example, it is indispensable in a fine consommé or bouillabaisse. White sauces, all lamb and mutton dishes, broths and many dishes in Near Eastern, Spanish, southern French and Italian cuisines acquire a delicious flavour and bright yellow colour from saffron. In industry, saffron is used as a yellow colorant in baked goods and in the preparation of exquisite liqueurs.

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