Strausbaugh, Perry D. Department of Botany, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia.
Core, Earl L. Department of Biology, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia.
Last reviewed:August 2020
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The plant Crocus sativus, which is a member of the iris family (Iridaceae) in the order Asparagales, and the spice derived from it. Originally a native of Greece and Asia Minor, saffron is now cultivated in various parts of Europe, India, and China. This crocus (see illustration) is the source of a potent yellow-orange dye that is used for coloring foods and medicine; however, synthetic dyes have replaced it in many instances. Saffron dye is extracted from the styles and stigmas of the flowers, which appear in autumn. It takes 4000 flowers to produce 1 oz (28 g) of the dye. As a spice, saffron is derived from the dried stigmas (as well as from the dried styles in certain preparations), and it is used to flavor and season a variety of dishes. See also: Asparagales; Dye; Flower; Spice and flavoring
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