Saffron is widely sought after and considered one of the world’s most delicate and finest culinary spices. The history of this delectable spice, and in particular how humans have used it, spans across many cultures further than 3,500 years ago. How did this beautiful spice, dye, and even medicine get from the petal, to the plate?
Saffron as we now it is derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, which we would know as the saffron crocus. This flower can bear up to four flowers with each of these bearing three vivacious crimson stigmas. These threads are recognizable as the spice we know. Once collected and dried they can be used in many different ways from a curry to a cure.
Saffron in Asia
Although saffron is most commonly associated with Asia, according to historians it was first cultivated around the area of Greece. There are many differing accounts of saffron’s arrival to Asian countries, which is entirely expected considering the ancient era.
According to Persian sources, saffron was introduce to India by Persian ruler’s as they expanded their empire through newly built garden and parks. During the 6th century BC, this new Kashmiri saffron was used to treat melancholy whilst also being a fabric dye.
In contrast, the Kashmiri legend of saffron tells the tale of two foreign holy men in the 11th century AD. These two men had travelled to Kashmir, but fell ill and urgently needed saving from their ailments. The tribal chieftain cured them of their illness, and as thanks the holy men gave a crocus bulb as a gift. This Kashmiri legend still has holding in the modern age. Prayers are often offered to these saints of saffron during the harvesting season in the late autumn season.
Although these historic stories do not depict a necessarily accurate tale, they give beautiful insight into the deep reverence India has for the precious spice. The taste of such a delicacy is one that is difficult to describe. Its unique flavour profile suits both sweet and savoury dishes, and hold magic in its delicacy.
Harvesting the ruby red stigmas proves to be a labour of love, hence why it is such an expensive commodity. The stigmas are hand picked, all before midday. Any later and the saffron flower wilts. This explains why saffron is more expensive than gold per ounce.
The curing nature of saffron
The natural golden hues infused by this pricey spice have benefits to you far beyond a cooking dish. The legend of its origin and the ability of cure melancholy may not be scientifically correct yet there are lots of reasons why saffron should be top of your wish list.
One of the most distinctive traits of saffron is its stunning colour. This brazen colour is partly due to a dark orange, water-soluble carotene called crocin. Crocin has been linked to some incredible research into cancer cures. Crocin can trigger programmed cell death in various types of human cancers. Therefore, as an active component within saffron, the spice can inhibit cells that are cancerous and have no affect on cells that aren’t infected.
Crocin, the medicinal miracle aspect of saffron also has great results in the promotion of learning and memory retention. It is often used in the holistic treatment of mental impairment and memory loss such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
For an every day troubles, this perennial spice can protect your immune system from the cold. By mixing saffron with milk and applying this to your forehead, you flu can be fixed quickly and easily.
The story of saffron is more than a spice with a price. It provides ancient legends, beautiful scenery, rich mellow tones of colour, cures and a deliciously unique taste. Its secrets are held in its simple strands, powerfully, making every penny worth it.