Saffron History

According to historical documents, the most saffron productive lands are scattered between 29 to 42 degree north, from central Asia in east to Spain in west.

According to some symbols and historical documents, Iranian had a prominent role in introducing saffron, the culture of cultivation and consuming of it, to the other nations especially after entry of Islam to Iran. Saffron has rooted in Iran, and its ancient Persian name (Pahlavi version), “Karkam” or “Karkom” has entered to the other languages. Its Arabic name, “Zafran” was spread by Muslims between the other nations. The first Saffron farms, were established by Iranians in the ancient Mede State in Alvand Mountains and Zagros Mountains chain areas, and after that cultivation of saffron spread, in the other parts of the world.

The oldest documents about food or other consumption of saffron, which have been remained, is from Achaemenid (500 BC) time. Polyaenus, Greek writer of second century C.E., in a list of types and amounts of consuming foods in his writing “Stratagems” has recorded the daily consumption of saffron in Achaemenid court, about 1 Kg.

Persepolice Clay tablets are one of the most valuable historical documents that show audience with Darius of Achaemenidian, in the New Year celebration, “Nowrooz“. These tablets show representative of nations and citizen of countries colonized by Achaemenid, who are going to dedicate the most valuable goods of their country to the King. The last person is carrying a leather bag containing, saffron produced in the Mede state. In the other perspolice tablets, the Medes representative team are going to greet with the Iranian king with loads of wine, saffron and honey.

According to the historical documents, Iranian have been always the greatest producer of saffron in the world from the early days, and in the ancient time, in addition to exporting saffron to the other parts of the world, They taught its benefits to Greeks, Romans , Indians, Chinese, Semis people like Arabs. After the invasion of the Arabs to Iran, and entering of Islam, between the first and 4th century, Iranian taught the cultivation of saffron to the Islamic nations, living in the Mediterranean areas.

At the present time, cultivation of saffron has been terminated in old saffron producing part of world and Iran. Some of these areas were known as the major area of cultivating of saffron, and even some of these areas had gained world reputation for good quality. There are several reasons for abolishing of saffron cultivation, and its transferring to the other lands, but the major reason is loss of ingredients and substances required by saffron in order to grow in those lands. The substances, producing  color and smell of saffron is limited and possessing special specifications, and these substances, which are absorbed by saffron root during successive cultivations, cannot be provided by chemical and animal fertilizer.  Substances and ingredients required by saffron are not like other plantation. Therefore, hundreds years of continuation of  saffron cultivation in one are, cause lots of substances required by saffron in the soil of that area and decline of quality of product. This can bring that area to lose its reputation and transfer the saffron bulb to virgin lands, and this cycle is the reason of the saffron extinction in the old areas.

In the ancient time Saffron of the Mede land specially  Hamadan, Kermanshah, Ghom and Jay were important, then Mazndaran, Ray and Fars were added to these areas as well, for the next periods, Transoxiana, Khorasan, Ghahestan were added as Saffron cultivating areas and Ray, Keramanshah and Mazandaran were omitted. At the present time, Gonabad, Ferdoos and Torbat Heydariyeh are gradually taking over the saffron producing lands.

Today, on the contrary of the old days, transfer agriculture of saffron, is done faster. In past, natural or humane disasters like famine, drought or war had a major impact on determination of saffron cultivation in one area and transferring it to another part.