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What is saffron?

Saffron, pronounced as /ˈsæfrən/ or /ˈsæfrɒn/, is the synecdochical name of the purple crocus, Crocus sativus Linnaeus belonging to the family Iridaceae, otherwise known as the Rose of Saffron or saffron crocus.


Crocus sativus Linnaeus

Crocus sativus L. is a long-lasting herbaceous plant that sprouts from a globular bulb that generates daughter bulbs that themselves would grow into more crocuses and generate more bulbs.
Crocus sativus boasts of thin green leaves, fragrant lavender blooms with purple veins, yellow stamens and three precious, extra-long (25-30 mm), vivid red stigmas that extend over the petals. These three stigmas found in the blossoms of this crocus are the real saffron.
They are dried and used for medicinal, food flavoring and pigmentation purposes. As flavoring and dye for food, these dried stigmas or threads are widely known as saffron spice, said to be the most expensive spice in the world.


The quantity and quality of labor put into the harvesting of this spice accounts for its astronomical market value. Saffron spice gives a quaint bittersweet aroma, like honey and hay. It tastes as bittersweet as it smells. One has to taste it in order to know exactly how it tastes. Some say, “it’s mushroomy, and smoky.” Some say, “it does taste like the sea.” And some say, “it’s metallic, with honey tones and a whiff of seashells.”