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::History of saffron

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Saffron crocus flowers, represented as small red tufts, are gathered by two women in a fragmentary Minoan fresco from the excavation of Akrotiri on the Aegean island of Santorini.

Human cultivation and use of saffron spans more than 3,500 years{{#invoke:Footnotes|sfn}}{{#invoke:Footnotes|sfn}} and extends across cultures, continents, and civilizations. Saffron, a spice derived from the dried stigmas of the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus), has through history remained among the world's most costly substances. With its bitter taste, hay-like fragrance, and slight metallic notes, the apocarotenoid-rich saffron has been used as a seasoning, fragrance, dye, and medicine.

The saffron crocus is a genetically monomorphic clone{{#invoke:Footnotes|sfn}} native to Southwest Asia;{{#invoke:Footnotes|sfn}}{{#invoke:Footnotes|sfn}} it was first cultivated in Greece.{{#invoke:Footnotes|sfn}} The wild precursor of domesticated saffron crocus was likely Crocus cartwrightianus, which originated in Crete or Central Asia;{{#invoke:Footnotes|sfn}} C. thomasii and C. pallasii are other possible sources.{{#invoke:Footnotes|sfn}}{{#invoke:Footnotes|sfn}} The saffron crocus is now a triploid that is "self-incompatible" and male sterile; it undergoes aberrant meiosis and is hence incapable of independent sexual reproduction—all propagation is by vegetative multiplication via manual "divide-and-set" of a starter clone or by interspecific hybridisation.{{#invoke:Footnotes|sfn}}{{#invoke:Footnotes|sfn}} If C. sativus is a mutant form of C. cartwrightianus, then it may have emerged in late Bronze Age Crete.{{#invoke:Footnotes|sfn}}

Humans may have bred C. cartwrightianus specimens by screening for specimens with abnormally long stigmas. The resulting saffron crocus was documented in a 7th-century BC Assyrian botanical reference compiled under Ashurbanipal,{{#invoke:Footnotes|sfn}} and it has since been traded and used over the course of four millennia and has been used as treatment for some ninety disorders.{{#invoke:Footnotes|sfn}} The C. sativus clone was slowly propagated throughout much of Eurasia, later reaching parts of North Africa, North America, and Oceania. Global production on a by-mass basis is now dominated by Iran, which accounts for some nine-tenths of the annual harvest.{{#invoke:Footnotes|sfn}}


History of saffron sections
Intro  Etymology  Minoan and Greco-Roman  Middle Eastern and Persian  East and South Asian  Post-Classical European  North American  See also  Notes  Citations  References  Further reading  

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