What’s in the Article:
French cultivation started in earnest near the 13th century, and the availability would begin to push on local desires, then by extension, demand. Coupled with the onset of Bubonic plague demand continued to skyrocket. Common belief elevated saffron as a highly valued ally in the fight against plague. Things normalized in 14th century Europe and saffron came into its own; being first popularized in cooking media and distributed via archaic forms of print.
Mercantile ambitions, piracy, guarded jealousy and intrigue highlight this era, with the raw commerce value of saffron being commonly understood by royalty and rogues alike. Naturally, piracy is a less than safe endeavor and instead, creative business criminals heavily introduced the idea of adulterated saffron, or fakes, simply put. These could be outright replacements sold to the ill-educated, or more crafty cuts of saffron and other lookalike ingredients.
“Saffron economics” had an ebb and flow up until the industrial revolution, with demand and production flourishing particularly in the Mediterranean. Conversely, in England demand began to wane and production came to a near standstill due to the availability of new luxury import goods, and various sociological influences.
During this time Saffron was imported to the Americas, bringing a new-world chapter into the spicy saga & closing out the story of Saffron before the industrial, cultural, and combat revolutions of the 19th century.
With the expansion of the new world, and Saffron production retreating to small sized farming enclaves, saffron cultivation is now chiefly completed in Iran. It’s theorized that this has re-awoken the mystique behind saffron. It’s not something most consumers can walk outside and see, touch or taste. It comes from a land of turbulent history, epic legends, and dominant empires, collapse & rebirth. There now exists a demand for the spice and its set of applications that capture the imagination of “foodies”, chefs and even scientists, the world-wide.
Once an item of high value trade, saffron has translated into a high priced good in more recent, modern history. The price of Saffron remains high and lends credibility to its legend of luxury. Saffron farming is one of the very few industries where it remains impractical to use modern farming techniques to increase production capacity. This ancient spice is still farmed, weighed and packaged by hand which greatly contributes to its costly nature.
“Since so many crocus flowers are needed to yield even derisory quantities of dry saffron, the harvest can be a frenetic affair entailing about forty hours of intense labor. In Kashmir, the thousands of growers must work continuously in relays over the span of one or two weeks throughout both day and night.” (Source: Kashmiris Pin Hopes on Saffron", BBC News - Lak, 1998)