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History of saffron (part 1)

4000 years of saffron cultivation around the world

From the Latin safranum, zarparan in Persia or Sahafaran in Hebrew, traces of crocus sativus - saffron - can be found on tablets in Iraq dating back to 2000 BC. Present on certain Santorini frescoes, it was discovered 2000 years ago in the Roman Empire. Greece is undoubtedly the cradle of the famous Crocus Sativus (the Greek endemic Crocus cartwrightianus being its presumed ancestor).

Cultivated in Spain as early as the 9th century, it began to be exported to Syria and Egypt in the 11th century, to France in the 12th and throughout Europe in the 13th.

It was in the 14th century that saffron was consumed by the nobility and the clergy in a consistent manner.

Saffron was first cultivated in Iran and the Maghreb in the 8th century, then nine centuries later in Japan, and 1000 years later in Pennsylvania, where the first traces of cultivation can be found in the United States. One of the last places where saffron was grown was Argentina, which is now a major producer.

In France, saffron-growing began in the 14th century in the southwest, but it is also found in Provence and, more surprisingly, in Poitou and Normandy. In fact, it's in the latter region of France that saffron is found in the recipes of Taillevent (Norman master chef to the Duke of Normandy and later to Charles V and VI in the 14th century). Taillevent - Guillaume Tirel - was as popular in the 14th century as Paul Bocuse was in the 20th.

After its heyday in the 17th century, saffron disappeared from tables and kitchens in the 20th century.

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