The history of saffron starts since ancient times, it is mentioned in Greek myths and in the Bible. For centuries our Crocus Sativus has been appreciated in the kitchen and has always been considered precious, so much so that it is a symbol of wealth.


About Saffron

Saffron is not a plant, but a spice made from the three stigmas of the crocus flower which is a herbaceous plant with a bulb that blooms in autumn. The flowers are a bright purple color. This plant does not grow everywhere but needs a clayey, nutrient-rich soil and a rainy climate in spring and dry in summer. Autumn is the time of flowering and harvesting which is very special and must be done quickly and by hand (one of the reasons why saffron costs a lot). Harvesting can be done from dawn until 10 am because otherwise the flower opens too much and this leads to the risk of breaking the stigmas. First the flowers are picked and then the stigmas are gently and carefully removed.
history of saffron

The Etymology

The etymology of the word saffron comes from the Arabic Za’feràn or “sahafaran” in Persian, passing through the Latin “safranum”. The root is the Persian word “asfar” which means “yellow”. It is a crocus, a plant of the iridaceae family, The Crocus sativus or saffron derives from an intensive selection on the Crocus cartwrightianus, a plant native to Crete.

The History and Myth

The history of saffron has been known and used since ancient times. We find traces of it in the Bible, where our crocus sativus is one of the most prized aromatic plants found in the garden of the Cantico dei Canitici. It is depicted in the palace of Knossos and mentioned by the Egyptians in the Ebers Papyrus.
The Greeks have two mythological legends to explain the origin of the saffron flower: the young Croco was transformed into a flower by the gods, to punish him for his love for the beautiful nymph Smilace. Or maybe it was Mercury who accidentally hit his friend Croco and to remember him he decided to dye the flower the red of his blood. The crocus is also one of the flowers of Zeus’s cloud bed, as Homer recounts in the Iliad. In ancient Rome, on the other hand, saffron was used in cosmetics, in painting and as a dye for clothing due to the characteristic yellow color it releases thanks to crocin.


The Return of Saffron

The organoleptic qualities have always been appreciated in the kitchen, in the Middle Ages spices had a very high value and were a symbol of richness and refinement and saffron in particular has always been among the most precious aromatic. The return of saffron to Italy seems to be in the Middle Ages, brought by the monks, in particular by the inquisitor Domenico Santucci, an Abruzzo friar from Navelli. From here it began to spread, in particular in Sicily, Sardinia, Umbria, Tuscany and Abruzzo, areas where saffron cultivation is still widespread today. Today saffron is also rediscovered in Lombardy, thanks to our brianzoli zafferaneti finally the Milanese risotto can be made with zero kilometer ingredients.

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