Saffron aroma

The seductive aroma of saffron has captivated the rich and powerful through the ages, symbolizing light, royalty and preciousness. From an exclusive ingredient in the recipes of great chefs to mythological legends, saffron has inspired poets, chefs, and artists with its aura of luxury and mystery.

It has a unique and penetrating aroma that is floral and slightly herbaceous with notes of honey and hay. Its distinctive aroma adds depth and complexity to the dishes in which it is used, giving them an exotic and prized character.


Saffron is obtained from the stigmas of the Crocus sativus flower, The process of growing, harvesting and processing is extremely labor intensive and requires meticulous attention to ensure quality. Manual labor is essential to separate and dry the pistils, which are the valuable part of saffron. To get a kilogram of dry saffron, about 120,000 to 140,000 fresh flowers must be harvested by hand during the 30 days when the crocus blooms (mid-October to mid-November) from which the stigmas are taken, which more or less corresponds to 10Kg/ha of dry product. Hence the high price of this spice, which is more expensive than gold.

The word “saffron” comes from the Arabic “Za'feràn” or “sahafaran” in Persian, via the Latin “safranum.” The root is the Persian word “asfar,” which means “yellow.” In fact, the saffron plant is native to Asia Minor and is counted among the most expensive spices in the world. Saffron cultivation was held in high regard even in ancient times because of the great value of this spice also called “red gold.”


In ancient civilizations, saffron was considered a symbol of power and beauty, used to dye the sumptuous robes of kings and adorn the fabrics of brides. The ancient Egyptians used it to make ointments and perfumes that were used for sacred ceremonies and to dye precious fabrics. Ovid, in the Metamorphoses, recounts the Greek myth that explains the divine origin of saffron. Crocus, a handsome and bold young man who roamed among the gods of Olympus, fell madly in love with Smilace, a nymph of extraordinary beauty. The god Hermes, the messenger with the winged sandals, jealous of the attraction between the two, decided to punish them both by turning them into plants. Thus, Crocus was turned into a bulb and Smilace into a thorny plant, the sarsaparilla.

In ancient Greece, saffron was valued for its medicinal properties, as a dye and was used to make ointments and perfumes. But it was at the time of imperial Rome that saffron took on the highest value, becoming a symbol of wealth. Nobles dyed their fabrics with saffron powder, which gave a color similar to that of gold. At imperial banquets, diners reclined on pillows or triclubs sprinkled with this aromatic spice.

In Italy saffron arrived from (Arab) Spain thanks to an Abruzzese monk, Domenico Santucci da Navelli, who, at the Toledo synod in 1230, fell in love with this spice. He smuggled it to Italy (it was forbidden on pain of death), and in the 15th and 16th centuries many spice traders from beyond the Alps came to L'Aquila to buy saffron directly from the producers. Today saffron from Abruzzo is renowned, as is saffron from Veneto, Umbria, Marche, Tuscany, and Sardinia, a region to which crocus was introduced by the Phoenicians. The most important countries for saffron production in the world are Iran, Egypt, Greece and India.

During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, saffron became a vital trade commodity, often equaling the value of gold itself. Its aromatic, medicinal and coloring properties made it a coveted spice throughout Europe.

In addition to being a symbol of sovereignty, saffron was known for its medicinal properties and beneficial effects. Considered an elixir of life and even a natural aphrodisiac, it was used to alleviate a wide range of ailments, from depression to intestinal diseases. Even ancient Eastern civilizations such as the Chinese and Mongols knew of saffron's antidepressant properties, considering it a powerful tonic for the heart and soul.

After more than four thousand years, modern science confirms that Crocus sativus has healing properties: rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, it has anti-inflammatory properties is an anxiolytic and a natural antidepressant. The bright red color is given by the presence of carotenoids useful in fighting aging and defending against degenerative cell diseases.


In cooking it is highly valued and has enriched dishes and drinks all over the world. It is present in one of Italy's most famous liqueurs, Strega, and gives risotto alla Milanese its characteristic color and flavor. The success of this dish, born in 1574, according to legend from an apparent lack of money for a wedding gift, has made saffron a constant presence in Italian and international cuisine.


In wines, saffron is among the spicy aromas linked to the grape variety (primary aromas). In fact, saffron (β-isophorone) is present in the aromatic bouquet of Ribolla Gialla, Vernaccia, Barbera, and Refosco dal Penducolo Rosso

The pure saffron aroma is also readily found in the famous Sauternes wines made from Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle grapes attacked by Botrytis cinerea.

Train your sense of smell to recognize the aroma of SAFFRON with Tasterplace aroma kits.

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