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Saffron

Saffron

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Published by: Taoshobuddha on Aug 28, 2011
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10/25/2012

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Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of the saffron crocus (Crocussativus). Crocus is a genus in the family Iridaceae. A C. sativus flower bearsthree stigmas, each the distal end of a carpel. Together with the styles —stalks that connect the stigmas totheir host plant the dried stigmas areused in cooking as a seasoning and coloringagent. Saffron,is the world’smost expensive spice by weight, isnative to Southwest Asia.Saffron’s bitter taste and iodoform-or hay-like fragrance result from thechemicalspicrocrocin and safranal.Saffron also contains a carotenoid dye,crocin, which imparts a rich golden-yellow hue to dishes and textiles.
 
In the EU saffron is identified as E164 under the E number food additivecode system.
Etymology
Almost all the cultures in one way or the other speak and use Saffron spice.The English word saffron stems from the Latin word safranum via the 13
th
-century Old French term safran. Safranum in turn derives from Persian
نارﻔﻋز
-za'ferân. Some argue that it ultimately came from the Arabic word
ناَرَ ﻔْ ﻋَز
za'farān
, which itself derives from the adjective
رَ ﻔْ ﺻَأ
a
far ‘yellow’.However, some etymologists argue that
ناَرَ ﻔْ ﻋَز
-
za'farān is the arabicized
form of the Persian word
ناررز
zarparān.
It has golden stigmas.Latinsafranum is also the source of the Italian zafferano, Portuguese açafrão and
 
Spanish azafránetc. Crocum in Latin is a Semitic loan word derived fromAramaic kurkema via Arabic kurkum, and Greek krokos. Saffron comes fromWestern Asiaand most likely Persia. The crocus was cultivated in ancientEurope. The Mongols took saffron from Persia to India. In ancient timesaffron was used medicinally and as well as for food and as a dye.
Biology
The domesticated saffron crocus (Crocus sativus) is an autumn-floweringperennial plant unknown in the wild. It is often mistaken for the moreplentiful common autumn crocus, which is also known as meadow saffron ornaked ladies (Colchicum autumnale) and has been the cause of deaths dueto mistaken identity. However, saffron in high dosage can also be poisonous.It is a sterile triploid form, possibly of the eastern Mediterranean autumn-flowering Crocus cartwrightianusthat originated in Central Asia.The saffron crocus resulted when Crocus cartwrightianus was subjected toextensive artificial selection by growers seeking longer stigmas. Beingsterile, the purple flowers of Crocus sativus fail to produce viable seeds.Reproductionhowever depends on human effort. The plant formscorms,underground bulb-like starch-storing organs. Thesemust be dug up, brokenapart, and then replanted. A corm survives for one season, producing viathis division up to ten ‘cormlets’ that grow into new plants.Cormsor bulbsaresmall brown globules up to 4.5 centimeters(1.8 in) in diameter and areshrouded in a dense mat of parallel fibers.

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