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Common Name: Saffron

Genus Species: Crocus sativus

Family: Iridaceae

Origin: Near East, possibly Asian Minor

Cultivation: Spain, Austria, Italy, Greece, France, Iran, Kashmir

Description: The purple crocus, Crocus sativus, has long been cultivated in Asia Minor and in Spain so that its hand-picked stigmas can be used both as a spice and as a brilliant red-yellow dye. The plant is now cultivated in India, Iran and several Mediterranean countries; it used to be grown in the southern England town, Saffron Walden. The yellow color of paella, bouillabaise, saffron cakes, challah bread, and some curry sauces is characteristically obtained from saffron. Unlike the cheaper turmeric, it can penetrate into rice grains, and a small amount can impart its flavor and smell to the food. Currently, saffron is one of the most expensive spices because it requires labor-intensive harvesting. The medicinal uses of saffron in the past included its general employment as an antidote against poisoning, a digestant, an aphrodisiac, a tonic, and as a specific for dysentery and measles. In accordance with the Doctrine of Signatures, its yellow color signified its natural ability to treat jaundice.

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Recipes that Use Saffron: