Sunday, 8 March 2009

Saffron - the most expensive spice in the world?

Dear Mr Postman .. ah! warmth to my heart - home memories .. and, as you know extra information that I love to hear about ...

Saffron has a large place in our hearts - the Cornish hearts! Saffron buns and saffron cake were always on offer on our holidays - wonderful fresh or toasted buns or slices .. with creamery butter dripping off - ready to be guzzled down by hungry kids.

Saffron is obtained from the three orange stigmas of the true crocus flower; which when dried constituted one of the most valued and expensive spices in the world.

Saffron has been around 'for ever' ... in biblical times saffron was of the highest importance, not only as a spice and perfume, but for its food & colouring properties; the Greeks used saffron - Homer mentioned it; Pliny said that the benches of public theatres were strewn with the flowers, and the petals placed in small fountains to scent the banqueting halls. Saffron-scented essences were made to descend upon the people like dew ... from the roof of the ampitheatre: how wonderful that must have been?!

The Arabs, Greeks and Romans used Saffron in perfume, medicine and dyeing; it was tansported from Persia (Iran) to India for the colouring of curry. It is cultivated in France, Spain, Sicily and Iran, and it is native to Greece and Asia Minor.

We grew it here in the 16th century - the market town of Saffron Walden became so famous for its production that 'Market Walden' became Saffron Walden. There were small cultivations elsewhere .. but it's likely that the Saffron in Cornwall was originally imported from Persia way back in the middle ages .. when there was a fair amount of trade with the Phoenicians for the minerals, particularly tin, found in Cornwall.

Another interesting snippet - is that in the 19th century .. it was used, combined with sandalwood, cochineal and talc powder, in the making of rouge!

Saffron is used today in many dishes made in countries around the world: risotto in Italy; paella in Spain; garlicky mayonnaise rouille served with French fish soups; in creamy Indian desserts; and, of course, as part of our Cornish heritage - rich yeast buns with currants, or the crumbly cake slices .. served with a spread or lashings of butter or simply eaten on their own.

Thanks for telling us about Saffron and its history .. what's on for tomorrow? ....


Peter Baca said...


What a wonderful post on saffron! It was very informative! Good food makes us feel great! Saffron can be such a wonderful addition to a dish.

My favorite saffron dishes are paella and certain Persian dishes!

Best Regards

Pete Baca
The Car Enthusiast Online

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Thanks Pete ..glad you liked it .. I too love Persian dishes .. and it's those childhood memories of food that can sustain later in life - & bring happiness to an ill person, my mother in this instance.

Thanks - Hilary: Be Positive Be Happy

Believe Achieve - Hugo and Roxanne said...

Hi Hilary,

All the talk of yummy dishes and dessert is making me hungry! lol :-) I'm definitely going to indulge in a sweet snack before heading off to bed!

This was such an interesting and informative post! I love learning new things such as this! Wonderful! Keep them coming!

Many Blessings....
Roxanne ~ Believe Achieve

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Roxanne .. I'm not sure if tempting you to have a sweet snack is such a good idea!!

Did you see the Cornish cream ones?

But so glad you like the post .. and learning snippets of information ..

Thanks for visiting & enjoying the blog...

Hilary: Be Positive Be Happy