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Saffron History

Although the origins of saffron are confusing, we can almost confirm that it comes from Orient, because its cultivation was widely spread in Minor Asia far before the birth of Christ.

One of the first historic references to the use of saffron comes from Ancient Egypt , where it was used by Cleopatra and other Pharaons as an aromatic and seductive essence, and to make ablutions in temples and sacred places.

Saffron was also highly appreciated in the Classic Greece for its coloring and aromatic properties. It was used as a remedy to sleeplessness and to reduce hangovers caused by wine. It was also used to perfume bathing and as an aphrodisiac

Arabs used saffron in medicine for its anaesthetic properties. It was the Arabs who introduced the cultivation of saffron in Spain in the X century. Evidence of different kinds assure that saffron was an irreplaceable ingredient in the hispanic-arabic cooking of that age.

During the Middle Age, saffron became well known in Great Britain. The legend says that, in the period of Edward III, a pilgrim brought a bulb of saffron hidden in a hole in his stick from Middle East to the town of Walden. There the bulb was grown and reproduced giving prosperity to the town.

During the Renaissance, Venice stood out as the most important commercial center for saffron. In that period saffron was worth its weight in gold, and even today it is still the most expensive spice in the world. But sadly its high price led to its adulteration, which then was often severely punished. Henry VIII, who cherished the aroma of saffron, even condemned to death adulterers of saffron.

Nowadays saffron forms part of the culinary culture of different regions in the world:

  • In India saffron is an indispensable ingredient in many recipes of rice, sweets and ice-creams. It is used in Ayurvedic medicine and in religious rituals.
  • In Saudi Arabia, a real Arabic coffee should have saffron and cardamom.
  • In the North of Italy and South of Switzerland, saffron is essential in the preparation of its famous Risotto.
  • In Sweden it is a traditional to bake saffron bread on the day of St. Lucile.
  • Finally, in Spain saffron is an indispensable ingredient in such famous dishes as Paella, Fabada or Pote Gallego.