Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of the saffron crocus, native to Greece, where it was first cultivated in ancient times. Beside southern Europe, saffron is also indigenous to the steppes of southwest Asia.
Saffron is widely used in Indian, Persian, Arab, Turkish, and European cuisines. Saffron also has a strong pigment that is used as a dye.
Saffron has long been among the world’s most costly spices by weight. For that reason, it has been counterfeited throughout history.
Saffron’s high price owes to its delicacy, and the small part of the plant from which the spice is derived. Only the stigma and styles – the stalks that connect stigmas to the plant – are used for the spice. The saffron crocus blooms each year for 2 weeks at most, with each plant having 4 flowers at most.
Saffron comprises over 150 aromatic compounds. It also has many nonvolatile active phytonutrients.
Saffron is vitamin rich (A, B, C), and contains calcium, copper, potassium, manganese, magnesium, iron, selenium, and zinc. Saffron is used in many traditional medicines as an antiseptic, antidepressant, antioxidant, anticonvulsant, and digestive aid.