Crocus Sativus or saffron crocus is a flowering plant revered for the spice called saffron which is cultivated from its flowers. This autumn-flowering perennial plant species is unknown in the wild. Human cultivation of saffron crocus and use of saffron have taken place for more than 3,500 years and spans different cultures, continents, and civilizations, and it is being grown and cultivated in the Mediterranean, and East Asia. The fragrance and taste found in saffron is a result of the compounds picrocrocin and safranal. It also contains a cartenoid pigment (found in carrots) called crocin, which gives the spice its red/orange color. Saffron has been traded and sold for four millennia all over the world. About 90% of the worlds saffron has been grown in Iran. Its is believed Crucus Sativus is a mutant species, hence its male sterility, meaning it cannon reproduce naturally, and needs human intervention to propagate the plants.
Crocus sativus thrives in the Mediterranean maquis, an ecotype superficially resembling the North American chaparral, and similar climates where hot and dry summer breezes sweep semi-arid lands. It can nonetheless survive cold winters, tolerating frosts as low as −10 °C and short periods of snow cover.
Saffron’s aroma is often described by connoisseurs as reminiscent of metallic honey with grassy or hay-like notes, while its taste has also been noted as hay-like and sweet. Saffron also contributes a luminous yellow-orange coloring to foods. Saffron is widely used in Persian, Indian, European, and Arab cuisines.
Because of the reproductive failure of this species, and its highly demanded and desired flavor and aroma, saffron is easily the most expensive spice by weight. But honestly, in a small scale cultivation of saffron at home is not difficult (at least here in WA.) I have cared for and grown a couple plants and accumulated several grams of spice over the flower season.
So if you are interested in the cultivation of expensive herb or spice, look no further than saffron for its value and rarity is unmatched.
Plant and Prosper!