Botanical Name: Crocus sativus L.
Saffron is used as a culinary seasoning and to colour, cottage cheese, chicken and meat, rise, mayonnaise, liquors and cordials. It is also used in speciality breads, cakes, confectionaries, Mughlai dishes. Saffron is also used as a perfume in cosmetics. In medicine saffron is used in fevers, melancholia, and enlargement of liver and spleen. In Ayurvedic medicine it is used to heal arthritis, impotence and infertility. It has wide range of uses in Chinese and Tibetan medicines.
Saffron, the most expensive spice in the world is derived from the dry stigmata of the plant Crocus Sativus. The plant is a bulbous, perennial with globular corms, 15-20 cm high. It has 6 to 10 leaves present at anthesis, one to two flowers with a lilac-purple colour with perianth segments of 3.5 – 5 cm and style branches of 2.5 – 3.2 cm. The yellow style is deeply divided into three branches and the stigmata are bright red. Flowers are arising directly from the corms. Flowers have tri-lobed stigma, which along with the style tops yield the saffron of commerce.
Origin and Distribution
Saffron is a native of Southern Europe and cultivated in Mediterranean countries, particularly in Spain, Austria, France, Greece, England, Turkey, Iran. In India, it is cultivated in Jammu & Kashmir and in Himachal Pradesh. Saffron thrives best in warm sub-tropical climate. In Spain, it is grown in dry temperate conditions with an annual rainfall below 40 cm. It grows at an elevation of 2000 mtrs MSL. Photoperiod exerts a considerable influence in the flowering of saffron. An optimum period of 11 hours illumination is desirable. Unusually low temperature coupled with high humidity during flowering season affects flowering of the crop. Spring rains boost production of new corms. Slightly acidic to neutral, gravelly, loamy, sandy soils are suitable for saffron cultivation.