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Saffron

Overview

Scientific Name: Crocus sativus

Plant Part: Flower Stigma

Other Names: Kesar, Zafran, Fan Hong Hua, Safran, Zaffarano, Shafran, Zaforá

Saffron, the most expensive spice in the world is obtained from the flowers of Crocus Sativus also known as Saffron Crocus, a plant that is native to the Mediterranean region, Asia Minor, and Iran.

Saffron is actually the stigma of the flower of the Saffron Crocus plant which blooms for only one week each year during fall and the flowers need to be handpicked just before or at sunrise while they are still closed in order to avoid any damage to the stigma. Each flower contains only three stigmas which means it takes 150 flowers to produce 1 gram of saffron, this pretty much explains why this crimson spice is worth its weight in gold!

This perennial herb belongs to the Iris family Iridaceae and thrives in a Mediterranean climate characterised by hot, dry summers and cool to cold wet winters.

Saffron is cultivated in Iran, India, Spain, Morroco, and Greece with Iran being the largest producer, accounting for almost 90% of the world’s production.

History of Saffron

The history of saffron dates back to at least 4000 years ago spanning multiple continents, cultures, and human civilisations.  

The plant is first believed to be cultivated in Greece and is the descendant of the Crocus Cartwrightianus which was found in the wild. 

The first written records of saffron are believed to be from Assyria under Ashurbanipal, the king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire which flourished around the 7th century BC.

Using modern scientific analysis, scientists have been able to find traces of saffron pigment in a prehistoric cave in Iraq and in a wall painting in Santorini, Greece. These Fresco paintings in Santorini believed to be 3,000–5,000 years old, show various saffron scenes. 

Several other accounts of saffron being used as a pigment, as medicine, for perfumery, and in food ranging from the 17th century BC until the medieval ages. These accounts cover human history from the Greco-Roman classical period to the Post-Classical European Era, so it would be apt to say that saffron is one of the oldest spices known to humans.

Harvesting and Post Harvesting Practices

Saffron is ready to be harvested when the flowers of Crocus Sativus bloom, this is generally in the Autumn season across countries where saffron is cultivated.

The flowers are handpicked while they are fully elongated and ready to bloom but not fully bloomed as this avoids any damage to the stigma or saffron threads, as they are later called.

Once the flowers are picked, the stigma is removed from the flowers by hand once again and then these stigmas are dried for upto 12 hours using different types of machinery ranging from microwave drying, vacuum oven drying, or electric oven drying. In some parts of the world, saffron threads can also be dried using charcoal/wood fire.

After drying, the saffron threads are then cleaned and sorted into different grades.

Our Supply Chain

The Sabor Co. is an importer, distributor, and wholesaler of Saffron based in Australia. We ethically work with directly spice farmers across the world to source some of the finest produce while incorporating the concepts of transparency and product traceability throughout the supply chain. 

All our produces come with farm-level traceability reports that include information about the farmer, farm inputs, harvesting dates, and more.

For saffron we currently have farmer partners in the following countries.   

Saffron is currently cultivated in the state of Jammu & Kashmir in India. India currently produces about 6 tonnes of saffron every year and this is considered some of the finest saffron in the world due to its high crocin content. Read more

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