Saffron, Crocus Sativus Linnaeus, is a genus in the family Iridaceae. Pronounced “SAF-ruhn”, saffron has been used for thousands of years as a seasoning, fragrance, dye, and medicine. The stigmas of the flower are harvested and processed by hand which is very labor intensive and the reason why Saffron is considered the world’s most expensive spice.
True saffron is considered a domesticated plant that has only a few related species growing in the wild. This makes it difficult to pinpoint its exact origins, some food historians believe it to be native to the area known as Asia Minor (the westernmost protrusion of Asia, which makes up the majority of what today is the Republic of Turkey) while others are of the opinion that it originated in ancient Persia (modern day Iran).
Saffron has .5% to 1% essential oil, primarily monoterpene aldehydes, terpenes and isophorone-relatedf compounds. Its color comes from carotenoid pigments, mostly the bright orange yellow, water soluble crocin.
Saffron is called za-faran (Arabic), fan huang hua (Mandarin), safran (French and German), zaaffran/kesar (Hindi), safuran (Japanese), acafrao (Portuguese), shafran (Russian) and azafran (Spanish). Saffron is also known as rose of saffron, crocus, and hay saffron.