SAFFRON, a coloring material, consisting of the dried stigmas of the common yellow crocus, so abundant in our gardens in early spring. It was introduced into Europe from Asia Minor, and is largely cultivated in several countries, but chiefly in Spain. In Eng land the crocus was unknown until 1339, when it was introduced from the east by a pil grim; and in 1582 it was extensively cultivated for yielding saffron, especially in Essex, at the place now called in consequence Saffron-Walden. Its cultivation in Britain has almost entirely ceased, and the saffron used is imported. Saffron is not only valuable as a coloring material, but has from very early ages had a great medicinal reputation. Homer mentions it, and Solomon associates it with spikenard and other precious drugs and spices. A large portion of the supply in ancient times was yielded by Cashmere, where it is still extensively cultivated. In addition to its other properties, it is often used as a perfume, and in flavoring as well as coloring confectionery and other article of food. These latter are now its chief uses in Britain, where its medicinal value has long been declining. The color yielded by saffron is a bright golden yellow, and is due to a pecul iar principle called polychroite. Its greatifolubility in water prevents its being used as a dye for fabrics; but its agreeable flavor, and the absence of all injurious qualities, render it of great service in coloring articles of' food.
The S. crocus (crocus sativus; see CM CUS) differs from most of the species of that genus in flowering in autumn, not in spring. It has large deep purple or vi,det flowers, with the throat bearded. and the long drooping trifid stigma much protruded from the tube of the perianth. The stigmas are the only valuable part of the plant.
In its cultivation the corms are planted in the beginning of summer in rows 6 in. apart, and 3 in. from bulb to bulb; the most suitable soil being a sandy loam, very thor oughly tilled. The stigmas are gathered by women and children, and are spread out on cloth or paper, and dried in the sun, or in kilns or drying-houses. The produce of an acre of saffron is about 5 pounds the first year. and 24 pounds the second and third vear, after which the plantation must be renewed. But an ounce of saffron sells for at least £2.
a market t. and municipal borough of England, in the county of Essex, 24 m. n.n.w. of Chelmsford. The church is an elegant specimen of late per pendicular. The free has an income of £60 a year. The chief trade is in barley, malt, and cattle. Pop. '71, 5,718.