Saffron, or Crocus Sativus by its scientific name, is one of mans earliest and most revered spices. Ancient tradelines were carved into unknown lands for its traffic, and presumptuous adventurers traveled halfway around the world on the mere rumor of this revered spice. References to the Saffron plant go back as far as Creatan cave paintings dating1600 BC.

Greek legends claim that Crocus, a humble Greek farmer, was playing a game of stones with the god Mercury. One of Mercury’s stones missed its mark and struck Crocus on the head, killing him instantly. As Mercury wept for the loss of his mortal friend, his tears blessed the land and the revered saffron crocus plant blossomed every year to commiserate the passing of Crocus.

The saffron plant is a perennial that is rarely found in the wild. In the 1300’s it started to become widely cultivated in Europe. Three small threads emerge from the blossoming flower when it is in bloom. There are over a quarter of a million of these tiny threads in a pound of Saffron. A very small amount of Saffron threads can actually be harvested from each plant every season, another reason for its heavy price tag.

In 15th century Germany Saffron was said to be so revered that they headsman’s axe was the only punishment awaiting Crocus plant thieves. Most likely because of its rarity and heavy labor involved with its cultivation, Saffron was also the primary ingredient for the dies used to make robes for nobility and priests.

Spanish Saffron, the most expensive and highest quality is typically grown on large cultivation farms in LaMancha, Spain. The history of Saffron in this small town can be traced as far back as the early 1200’s. Over 70% of the world’s Saffron comes from Spain due to its suitable climate for the plant.

Some of the most common dishes associated with Saffron are Italian risottos, Spanish paellas, Middle Eastern rice pilafs and seafood stews. Each small thread of Saffron is very potent, so very little of it needs to be used to greatly spice up any number of dishes.

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