Saffron's official botanical name is "Crocus sativus". The name "crocus" is a Latin translation of the Greek "Krokos" meaning filament or stigma, and in fact it is the stigma of this bud that offer the color and flavor.
The Latin "safranum" which evolve from the Persian-Arabic word for crocus, "az-zafaran" (or yellow) give us the English name: saffron.
Saffron probably originated in Kashmir at the foot of the Himalayan mountains and has been part of Hindu rituals for centuries.
  Rich in carotenoids, a light-yellow to deep-red pigment, it was used not only to add color and flavor to the food, but as a dye for fabrics and as a cosmetic. Ancient Greece knew saffron well, and wealthy Greek maidens made it part of their daily rituals.
  During the time of the Roman Empire, Emperor Nero, ordered that the street of Rome be blanketed with saffron before riding in astride his horse. Given saffron's reputation as a soporific, rich Roman sewed filaments into their pillow as a remedy for insomnia. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the use of saffron declined tremendously. Arab merchants reintroduced the spice in Spain, a thousand years ago, but was only when Crusaders returned from the Holy Lands carrying sample of it, that Saffron became symbol of power and wealth in Europe. As a result, Renaissance banquets food were often served with brilliant saffron sauces.
  In Italy modern-day, saffron is cultivated mostly in Abruzzo, as well as in Sardinia and Tuscany. Crocuses bloom in the fall, usually during the third week in October, and the crops are quickly harvested the preserve the flower's flavor. Stigma are separated from the blossoms by hand, then roasted over a gas flame to fully bring out the aroma.
Saffron is the world's costliest spice, because approximately two hundred flowers are needed to produce 1 gram of saffron. The flavor released by saffron is fairly strong, so even I tiny amount will evoke a full range of mysterious, complex and wonderful aromas.
  Buying tips  
  Look for saffron threads in spice shop or specialty store. Powdered saffron can be adulterated with turmeric or lesser quality agents. The best saffron is deep reddish-orange; the fewer white and yellow threads there are, the better the saffron stigmas were separated from other parts of the flower, so all you buy is pure saffron. Saffron keep indefinitely if store in a cool dry place, but is best used within a year or two of the harvest.  
  Cooking tips  
Saffron requires time to fully develop its flavor. The infusing method, which calls for diluting the threads in warm liquid, draws out flavor and aroma best of all.
It's suggested macerate saffron, in liquid, up to 24 hours to double the  power of saffron.


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