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saffron,name for a fall-flowering plant (Crocus sativus) of the family Iridaceae (irisiris,
common name for members of the genus Iris of the Iridaceae, a family of perennial herbs that includes the crocuses, freesias, and gladioli. The family is characterized by thickened stem organs (bulbs, corms, and rhizomes) and by linear or sword-shaped
..... Click the link for more information. family) and also for a dye obtained therefrom. The plant is native to Asia Minor, where for centuries it has been cultivated for its aromatic orange-yellow stigmas (see pistilpistil
, one of the four basic parts of a flower, the central structure around which are arranged the stamens, the petals, and the sepals. The pistil is usually called the female reproductive organ of a flowering plant, although the actual reproductive structures are microscopic.
..... Click the link for more information. ). The stigmas, handpicked and dried, yield saffron powder, the source of the principal yellow dye of the ancient world. It was used for numerous purposes by many ancient cultures, including the Sumerians, Phoenicians, Minoans, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Persians. The plant is still grown in limited quantities for the powder, which is used in medicinals and perfumes and for flavoring, especially in Mediterranean cooking. It has been estimated that the stigmas of about 4,000 flowers are required for one ounce of saffron powder. Saffron is mentioned in classical writings and in the Bible (Song 4.14). It is one of the crocuses sometimes cultivated for ornament; its blossoms are white or lilac in color. The safflowersafflower,
Eurasian thistlelike herb (Carthamus tinctorius) of the family Asteraceae (aster family). Safflower, or false saffron, has long been cultivated in S Asia and Egypt for food and medicine and as a costly but inferior substitute for the true saffron dye.
..... Click the link for more information. , sometimes used as a substitute for saffron and called false, or American, saffron, and the meadow saffronmeadow saffron
or autumn crocus,
perennial garden ornamental (Colchicum autumnale) of the family Liliaceae (lily family). Native to Europe and N Africa, it has escaped from gardens to meadows and fields in some parts of the United States.
..... Click the link for more information. , or autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale) are unrelated plants. True saffron is classified in the division MagnoliophytaMagnoliophyta
, division of the plant kingdom consisting of those organisms commonly called the flowering plants, or angiosperms. The angiosperms have leaves, stems, and roots, and vascular, or conducting, tissue (xylem and phloem).
..... Click the link for more information. , class Liliopsida, order Liliales, and family Iridaceae.
See P. Willard, Secrets of Saffron: The Vagabond Life of the World's Most Seductive Spice (2001).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/
The most expensive spice in the world is the stigma (stem inside the flower). Each Crocus sativus plant has up to 4 flowers (usually purple), each containing 3 bright red stigmas. Flower petals are also edible. Used for antioxidant properties, anti-cancer, heart disease, cholesterol, soothing stomach and colon, eyes, depression.
Edible Plant Guide © 2012 Markus Rothkranz
Crocus sativus. A crocus of the iris family (Iridaceae); the source of a yellow dye used for coloring food and medicine.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
1. an Old World crocus, Crocus sativus, having purple or white flowers with orange stigmas
2. meadow saffron another name for autumn crocus
3. false saffron another name for safflower
a. an orange to orange-yellow colour
b. (as adjective): a saffron dress
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005