Saffron is considered the most perfect of all spices. True saffron has a deep red color and imparts a golden yellow hue. The alchemists considered saffron the gold of the plant kingdom and believed it carried the “signature” of the great transmuting agent for which the alchemists spent their lives searching. It comes from the stigma of the stunningly beautiful violet crocus flower. During a two-week period in autumn, three stigmas from each flower are handpicked and dried. It takes 225,000 stigmas from 75,000 flowers to produce just a pound of the herb.
Eating saffron dispels depression and eliminates psychological inertia. It was once believed that you could die of “excessive joy” by eating too much of it. Drinking saffron tea is said to bestow the gift of clairvoyance and greatly enhance the body’s healing powers. Some modern psychics believe its odor and taste release the transcendent essences of childhood.
According to legend, Hermes created saffron when he accidentally wounded his friend Crocus, whose blood dripped to earth and sprouted as the flower that bears his name. Saffron was sacred to the Egyptian supreme god, Amen, and the Egyptians grew it in their sacred gardens at Luxor. Persian priests were said to have controlled the winds with saffron. Persian women attached balls of saffron to their bellies to facilitate safe pregnancies. Saffron was also sacred to Eos, the Greek god of the morning light, and the spice has been described as the dawn’s light solidified.