The word saffron comes from the Persian zafarān which refers to the yellow color. Today 95% of the saffron production in the world take place in Iran.
Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice which is produced of dried pistils from the saffron crocus. Each crocus flower has three pistils. It takes at least 100,000–150,000 crocuses, which are picked and cleaned by hand, to extract 1 kg of dried saffron.
Saffron is used as a spice in some types of bread (“saffron bread”). Nowadays saffron is mixed into the dough, but in older times the buns were brushed with saffron water immediately when they were taken out of the oven. In Sweden, it is mainly used for saffron buns, but it’s also used for making paella, fish soup and the famous Gotland dessert, saffron pancakes.
The earliest track of saffron is on Sumerian clay tablets from the 4th century BC. Saffron is also mentioned in the Old Testament. The first written evidence for saffron is probably from the 6th century BC in the Assyrian botanical reference book. Saffron is mentioned in the Iliad and in King Oedipus by Sophocles and according to Greek mythology Zeus is said to sleep on a bed of saffron. It is probably the world’s oldest spice and has been used throughout the ages among other usages, as medicine. The demand for the spice was greatest in 1347–1350 when it was considered to protect against the Great Depression. The spice has also been used as a pigment in painting and letterpress printing, as a dye in hair dyes and fabrics, as a perfume and not least as pleasure-enhancing. Cleopatra herself considered saffron to be aphrodisiac. In Iran, there are 50,000-year-old traces of saffron in images. The spice also has a prominent cultural role, for example by Buddhist monks dyeing their costumes in saffron, which they have done since the death of Siddharta Gautama.
In Europe, saffron became more common during the Middle Ages. In Sweden the spice became more popular in connection with the Hanseatic League opened up for trade across the Baltic Sea. At that time, the Swedes were alone in seasoning sweet bread and the saffron bread became a luxury product and a status symbol. At this time, the saffron trade revolved around Venice, where there was a police force called “Ufficio dello zafferano” in place which controlled the trade. Severe punishment awaited those who forged the spice. In Nuremberg there was a specific law related to saffron trade which was called “Safranschau”. The law could carry to the death penalty.
As the world’s most expensive spice, it happens that saffron is still counterfeited today. Which can lead to losing the taste and aroma in the grinding process. Ground saffron can also be easily counterfeited by mixing it with other red and yellow spices.
Our saffron consists of whole pistils and has significantly more taste and aroma. Try the saffron and experience the difference!