The origin of saffron remains very mysterious
Our little blue flower, Crocus Sativus L. is a cultivar, which means that it does not produce seeds, and therefore reproduces only by dividing the bulbs. Renewal is very slow, as it takes about two years for the bulb to produce three to four bulblets mature enough to be divided. The same bulb is exhausted after five to six years. It takes tеn tо twеlѵе years to оЬtаіn one gram of dry saffron from a single initial bulb.
One can therefore easily imagine the number of years needed to obtain a good-sized saffron plantation from a few bulbs, as was the practice in the Middle Ages. And this is why saffron was such an expensive commodity, the object of all kinds of smuggling.
However, all the saffrons in the world share the same genetic heritage, and are probably derived from a single bulb! We will never know who invented saffron. Legends make it a gift from the gods, but which ones? It is known in Sumer as early as 5000 BC and also in ancient times in India, it is mentioned in the Chinese pharmacopoeia as early as 2600 BC.
Greek and Indian legends
Near Shandarah, there is a story about an old sage who left his village threatened by famine to fіnԁ food. On his way, he was captured by nomads. But he managed to cure their chief, who was very ill. Out of gratitude, they freed him instead of keeping him as a slave. And what's more, they gave him their most precious possession, bulbs and saffron, and taught him how to grow and use them. But where did these nomads get their saffron from? Only their god knows.
It entered Europe via Greece, in Crete. In 2,000 years, it gradually spread throughout the Mediterranean basin.
It was Krokos, the friend of Hermes, who gave the Crocus its name. He was playing discus with him and was mortally wounded in the forehead. The blood which flowed from his wound entered the earth and fertilised it.
In this very place, later on, the first violet-blue flower came out, whose three red stigmas now symbolise for the Greeks resurrection and vital power. The very name Krokos is associated with the Greek root meaning 'fіlаmеntѕ'. It gave its name to turmeric, another crocus often used as a fake saffron.
Saffron conquers the Mediterranean
Saffron probably arrived in Greece too late for Alexander the Great to have any knowledge of it. It is said that the greatest conqueror of antiquity was stopped by this humble flower. While his army was on the Kashmir plateau, he set up camp in a large green meadow… which happened to be a saffron field.
Surrounded by flowers blooming in the night, in the early morning, he believed in a spell, a sign from the Gods, and turned back.
In 1550 BC, saffron arrived in Egypt, where it is mentioned in a medical papyrus. And Cleopatra used saffron to keep her skin beautiful.
In Assyria a special cult was paid to saffron where it symbolised purity. On the night when the flowering began, a procession led by the high priests took a young virgin to pick the first flower to emerge from the earth.
The Romans saw it as a symbol of the spiritual joy born of renunciation and asceticism. They burned it as incense during their religious ceremonies. The Phoenicians traded it extensively and transported it to North Africa, where they had trading posts in Tunisia, Algeria and on the Moroccan coast.
From there it reached the interior of the country, and our Sirwa mountains.
Saffron conquers Europe
It is assumed that it was introduced to Europe by the Arabs from Spain. It may also have been brought back from the early crusades. Or both.… The Arabs gave it its name, as safar or asfar means yellow.
In northern Europe, it was brought by the Vikings, who were both great traders and warriors. In the Nordic countries, many traditional recipes using saffron can be found, such as St. Lucia cakes, or Gottland saffron cakes.
Saffron became highly sought after in the late Middle Ages, as it was believed to be effective against the Black Death. Numerous "saffron cities" were founded.
It will be сultіѵаtеԁ there until the nineteenth century, before retreating because of the high cost of labour. Today, the few saffron producers who are reviving are obliged to sell their saffron at five to ten times the price of Moroccan saffron, without the difference in quality justifying this price difference.