Saffron, safflower.

Date: Wed, 11 May 1994 08:45:26 -0700
Sender: "Medicinal and Aromatic Plants discussion list <HERB.TREARN.BITNET>
From: Bob Beer <bbeer.U.WASHINGTON.EDU>
Subject: Re: saffron

Saffron is cultivated from Spain all the way to India. It is a strictly cultivated plant; there is no wild flower exactly like the saffron crocus. There is a crocus (whose name escapes me right now but I can look it up) which is a little smaller and less showy, and according to the Random House book on Bulbs, is probably the wild ancestor. The saffron crocus never sets seed (I believe it said it was a triploid). And a previous writer was correct, it is the stigma of the flower, not the stamen as I wrote by mistake.

Cultivation: Saffron grows well in areas with mild winters and long hot summers. It is an autumn-flowering crocus, which blooms about the same time as the Colchicums. After the blooms fade, the leaves come. They resemble grass and persist through out winter and early spring. (Mine are just now getting kind of yellowed.)

There is another product which is sometimes sold as "saffron," which is not from the saffron crocus at all, but from the safflower, a member of the composite family. It also has a bright color, but nowhere near as concentrated as true saffron, and the taste is completely different. It is a purely visual resemblance.


Date: Tue, 10 May 1994 22:20:02 MDT
Sender: "Medicinal and Aromatic Plants discussion list <HERB.TREARN.BITNET>
From: Michael Moore <hrbmoore.EINET.COM>
Subject: ReReRe...Saffron

Saffron Crocus has flowers whose stigmas are the Saffron of commerce. An acre of solid Crocus sativum may supply 25-30 pounds a year of the stigmas, are grown in rish alluvial soil, form a substantial cash crop for wealthy landowners in Bangladesh and India (where most comes from these days) and, in fact, has taken a lot of land out of food cultivation. There is some grown in Spain and the Netherlands, but I have not seen any in American commerce in a few years.

Saffron from Mexico is actually Safflower petals, a thistle, Carthamus tinctoria, with no resemblance to Saffron in any way except a) color and b) floral. Called Azafran in Mexico and here in New Mexico, it is a reasonably serviceable diaphoretic and I can vouch for its reputation for stimulating erruptions in measles and chickenpox. It's value in flavoring Saffron Rice, however, is several steps below cardboard. By the way, Mexican "Saffron" wholesales in the neighborhood of $5.00 a pound.

Michael Moore