Saffron

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Saffron (pronounced /ˈsæfrɒn/) is a spice derived from the flower of the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus), a species of crocus in the Iridaceae. A C. sativus flower bears three stigmas, each the distal end of a carpel. Together with their styles—stalks connecting stigmas to their host plant—stigmas are dried and used in cooking as a seasoning and colouring agent. Saffron, long the world's most expensive spice by weight,[1][2] is native to Southwest Asia.[2][3]

Saffron's bitter taste and an iodoform- or hay-like fragrance result from the chemicals picrocrocin and safranal.[4][5] A carotenoid dye, crocin, allows saffron to impart a rich golden-yellow hue to dishes and textiles.

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Etymology

The English word saffron stems from the Latin word safranum via the 12th-century Old French term safran. Meanwhile, Safranum derives via Persian زعفران (za'ferân). Some argue that it ultimately came from the Arabic word زَعْفَرَان (za'farān), which is itself derived from the adjective أَصْفَر (aṣfar, "yellow").[5][6] However, some give an alternative derivation arguing that زَعْفَرَان (za'farān) is the arabicized form of the Persian word زرپران (zarparān) - "having golden stigmas".[7] Latin safranum is also the source of the Italian zafferano and Spanish azafrán.[8]

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