Crocus sativa

Arnold Trachtenberg
Mon, 31 Oct 2005 17:14:53 PST
Here it is.…


Crocus sativus
Fam: Iridaceae

Coming from the dried stigmas of the saffron crocus, it takes 75,000 
blossoms or 225,000 hand-picked stigmas to make a single pound which 
explains why it is the world's most expensive spice. According to Greek 
myth, handsome mortal Crocos fell in love with the beautiful nymph 
Smilax. But his favours were rebuffed by Smilax, and he was turned into 
a beautiful purple crocus flower. A native of the Mediterranean, saffron 
is now imported primarily from Spain, where Moslems had introduced it in 
the 8th century along with rice and sugar. Valencia coup (coupé meaning 
“to cut” off the yellow parts from the stigmas) saffron is generally 
considered the best, though Kashmir now rivals this reputation. Saffron 
is also cultivated in India, Turkey, China and Iran. The name is from 
the Arabic word zafaran which means ‘yellow’. The French culinary term 
safrané means ‘coloured using saffron’. Its colouring properties have 
been as prized as its unique flavour. In India its colour is considered 
the epitome of beauty and is the official colour of Buddhist robes. 
Saffron was used to scent t baths and public halls of Imperial Rome. 
Pliny wrote that saffron was the most frequently falsified commodity, 
which has been true throughout history. Low grade saffron has even been 
treated with urine to give it colour, though it has most often been 
falsified with dried calendula or marigold. The Romans initially brought 
saffron to England, though it was lost to them in the Dark Ages. It is 
claimed that in the 14th century a pilgrim to the Holy Land, smuggled 
back one crocus bulb in a hollow staff from which all English saffron 
supposedly descends. It is grown in great quantities in Essex, 
especially in a town called Saffron Essex, whose coat of arms includes 
three saffron crocuses. Francis Bacon wrote “it maketh the English 

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