Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Saffron, the dried orange-coloured stigmas of Crocus sativus, a species unknown in a wild state, but cultivated in the neighborhood of Saffron Walden, Essex, until 1768, in Cambridgeshire till the present century, and now in Spain and in the French Department of Loiret. Not yielding a permanent dye, it is now little used as a dye, but is employed as a colouring-agent in pharmacy and to some extent in confectionery. The Cornish Saffron-cake is famous. One grain contains the stigmas of nine flowers -- i.e. 4,320 go to the ounce. It has a bitter taste and an aromatic odour, and in large quantities is narcotic. It yields three-fourths of its weight of an orange-red extract, still extensively used on the Continent and in India. The annual import into the latter country is valued at £75,000. The best quality comes from Valencia, that from Alicante and Barcelona being loaded with heavy mineral matter. When formerly it was in higher repute for wholesomeness it took place in stewing pears now occupied by cochineal. (See Shakespeare's Winter's Tale, act iv. scene 1.) The so-called autumn crocus or meadow saffron is a Colchicum (q.v.), and has nothing to do with this plant or substance. The name "saffron" is of Arabic origin.