SaffronSaffron is the name given to the stamens of the saffron crocus, Crocus sativus, which are harvested, dried, and used for cooking. Saffron has a pleasant spicy smell, and it contains a dye that colors food a distinctive deep golden colour. Safflower, Carthamus tinctorius, is often used as a less expensive substitute for saffron, as is turmeric, Curcuma longa, which mimics saffron's color well but not so much its flavor.
Saffron has also been used as a fabric dye.
In England during the 15th - 18th centuries, saffron was grown extensively in parts of Cambridgeshire and Essex. The Essex town of Saffron Walden got its name from being a market center for the saffron trade.
Spain and India are major producers of saffron. Saffron owes its fantastic price to the difficulty of extracting the stamens of the crocus individually by hand and how many it takes to make up a given weight, because they are so small. To make a pound of saffron requires approximately 25,000 stamens; each crocus contributes three.
Saffron is, at least superficially, the subject of Donovan's song "Mellow yellow".