History Of Saffron

As a medicinal herb and dye, saffron use goes back more than 50,000 years to depictions discovered in prehistoric northwest Iran. Its extensive use and high value has been found consistently throughout history in areas ranging from China to Europe.

From the Sumerians´ use of saffron as a trade good to religious offerings in Persia, saffron began to spread in popularity and geography beginning around the 10th century BC. Alexander the Great used Persian saffron for infusions, cooking and bathing. Phoenicians traded it for use in the treatment of melancholy, while it began being used in Tamil for easing labor pains and religious rites about 2,000 years ago.

Greek history recounts voyages to Cilicia sometime after 1,600 BC, with the goal of seeking out the best saffron for use in perfumes, cosmetics, ointments and offerings.

Egyptians treasured saffron as an aphrodisiac and Cleopatra reportedly used it in her baths to help improve lovemaking.

Saffron was so popular in 14th century Europe that the theft of a single ship carrying saffron sparked the "Saffron War", which lasted 14 weeks, and later in Nuremberg the Safranschou code was enacted which made saffron adulteration punishable by death.

Saffron made it to America by way of Europe and began to be widely cultivated in Pennsylvania by 1730. High demand in the Caribbean spiked the value of saffron to equal that of gold until the War of 1812 when many merchant vessels transporting saffron were destroyed. Pennsylvania Dutch saffron continues to be a specialty trade today.

Cultivation Of Saffron

Planting Saffron

Saffron is propagated by dividing the corm offspring, or cormlets, and planting each individual cormlet. Corms are planted deeply; from 2.8 to 5.9 inches in loose, well-drained clay soil that is high in organic matter. Traditionally, organic matter is introduced through a rich layer of manure.Climate, planting depth and spacing are all very important factors in determining yield. Each commercial growing region has tailored these figures specifically to its unique environment. Deeper planting depths create higher quality saffron.

Climate for Growing Saffron

Saffron crocuses thrive in semi-arid, hot and sunny conditions. While they can tolerate cold and even occasional snow, saffron crocuses do better in warm, dry environments. In the Northern Hemisphere, south-sloping hills are ideal, with plenty of wind and soil drainage. Saffron plants thrive in full sunlight and will perform poorly in low light or partial shade. In the Kashmir region of South Asia, rainfall is adequate with about 45 inches average per year. In other regions, irrigation is necessary for the saffron crocus to do well. The timing of watering is critical to saffron plants: rain or water before flowering is ideal while much moisture after flowering can promote rot and disease, resulting in crop losses.Saffron crocuses need to be able to dry out between watering or problems with rot, disease and low yields can result.

Growing Regions

Iran is the largest producer of saffron, accounting for about 94% of the world´s saffron production. In addition to Iran, the main producers of saffron are Spain, India, Greece, Azerbaijan, Morocco, and Italy.There are smaller, highly-specific cultivars found in pockets of countries such as New Zealand, France, Switzerland, England, and in the United States, where Pennsylvania Dutch saffron has a dedicated, if small, following.Cultivars are known by the region they are grown in, and saffron connoisseurs will pay a premium for saffron grown at these boutique farms. Italy, for example, has its own renowned cultivar known as "Aquila", grown in one small valley of the Abruzzo region.In each of these growing regions, climate dictates the success and the potency of the saffron strains. Some are known for being mellow while others, like saffron grown in Iran, are known for being more potent.

Medical Use Of Saffron

Saffron has a versatile medical action, and the reputed healing properties of saffron are scientifically verifiable. The carotenoids as well as various essential oils have long been known in medicine. Saffron has both analgesic properties that act on pain of the body as well as mental pain. In addition, the diuretic effect is known and sweaty.Also saffron as a remedy for epileptic seizures and as a heart medication is used. Saffron is also suitable for strengthening the stomach and lack of appetite. The liver is benefiting from the gifts of saffron, mainly because of the slight bitterness. In whooping cough and other violent coughing spells saffron brings relief.Except in the pregnancy - Caution, possible miscarriage! - Saffron can be used in many situations to strengthen overall. But as with any remedy should be discouraged from an overdose - to poisoning by saffron are possible!

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