As it happens, it’s the Middle East. All those Middle Eastern countries, most of which seem to have a rather high level of saffron, grow saffron. Well, that’s because saffron is a very rich plant that only grows in the region, mainly Morocco, Iran, and Syria. It has many uses, including as a spice—for example, it is used in Indian cooking. In fact, when Arab countries had oil shortages in the 1970s, Morocco sold saffron, which was then used in place of gasoline. (They called it “salwa.”)
What is saffron used for in North American cuisine?
Saffron has a variety of uses: It is a flavoring agent used in cooking, as a food coloring, and even in cosmetics. In the Americas, some cooks and restaurant owners like using saffron in place of butter or oil (though it can be dangerous to use). Saffron has been a major feature in many European cuisines, including French, Italian, Spanish, and many Scandinavian countries, too.
Saffron’s most important use by far is in the Middle East. The tradition of mixing green tea with saffron, known as “saffron-teapots,” has many generations with roots in ancient Egypt and the ancient Persian courts. In many places, people consume saffron as “saffron-infused” coffee; it is also used in the treatment of many ailments, like nausea or diarrhea. In Morocco, there is no coffee culture; instead, it is saffron that is used as medicine because its high levels of antiseptic and fungicidal properties are thought to help heal bleeding, infections, tooth abscesses, and a variety of other ailments.
How does saffron get its name—and where does it come from?
The name Saffron comes from a local plant, but it has been used in North America for as long as anyone can remember. There are two Saffron varieties—the most common varieties grown near the West Coast are those found in the United States, California, and Texas, as well as other parts of Mexico and Central America. Many of the other varieties grow in Spain, France, and parts of Africa.
In Arabic, saffron is written as Saffar, though in the West and East, it’s still written in English as saffron. The word saffron has
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