Saffron is considered the most noble, aromatic and precious spice in the world. However, it is not only used in cooking, but has also had an important role in the traditional botany of many cultures for hundreds of years.
Saffron is obtained from the dried threads of the crocus blossom Crocus sativus. Today, the harvesting of threads is still done by hand. About 200,000 blossoms have to be harvested to produce just 1kg of saffron, making it one of the rarest spices in the world.
The phytochemical composition of saffron is meanwhile well studied and has so far revealed over 150 substances in saffron. The best-known ingredients are safranal and crocine. Crocins are water-soluble carotenoids and are responsible for the yellow colour of saffron. Safranal, a monoterpene aldehyde, is responsible for the unique saffron aroma.