Since its first documentation in the 7th Century BC, the long and interesting history of saffron spices can be traced back over 4000 years and traverses many civilizations, countries, and cultures. The rarity of the spice can be attributed to the very labor intensive production process and the sheer volume of saffron crocus needed to produce an ounce of the saffron spice. Hence saffron prices are always among the most expensive prices in the world. An unbelievable yet true fact is that saffron price is nearly as much as gold by weight.
Saffron is extracted from the three red stigmas of the unique, purple coloured saffron flower. Grown mostly in the US, Europe, Iran and India, and also known by their scientific name of Crocus Sativus, these flowers grow up to anywhere between 20 and 30 cms. Saffron, also called Zafran in Arabic and Urdu, Azafran in Spanish and Kesar in Hindi, has been much sought after for centuries for both, its richly documented taste enhancing capabilities in the culinary world as well as its unmatched medicinal properties. Over the years, volumes of research have proven the medicinal properties, health benefits and enhanced cosmetic effects stemming from saffron.
Saffron colour and saffron flavour have both long been ingredients used for seasoning and spicing up some of the choicest Indian, European, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines.
Keen gardeners, who follow a more conventional line of use, often use Crocus Sativus bulbs to add cheer to their garden or terrace spaces with the amazing saffron plant which, incidentally, belongs to the popular ‘iris’ family.
Another unique property of this wonderful spice called saffron, favourite of gourmets, gourmands and food manufacturers, and treasured by the health, medical and cosmetic industries, is that it can retain its intrinsic qualities for long periods of time. In fact, it is said, that saffron has no expiry date.
Saffron flowers are normally categorised and named after the regional locations that they are found in. Today, varieties available include Spanish saffron, Dutch saffron, Zafferano, Mongra, Lacha, Kashmiri saffron and more.