Author : Hamed Biglari | 2023 May 10

Iran Is Home To One Of The Oldest Civilizations On Earth

Iran is home to one of the oldest civilizations on Earth, where turquoise-domed mosques, glittering palaces, and the tombs of long-gone poets reveal the mysteries and intrigues of the ancients. Yet beneath man's footprints lies an even lesser known, excellent Iran, brimming with remarkable geologic formations, ancient forests, and overgrown monuments that nature has reclaimed as its own.

Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, going for up to $16 per gram, and with good reason. It comes from the dried bright orange-red stigmas of the flower Crocus sativus.

But before digging up your spring crocus, know that this variety is unique because it's a triploid: it can't grow in the wild or reproduce without human intervention. The gorgeous purple flower is painstakingly propagated and harvested by hand, and only in the morning, it blooms. The more careful the cultivation, the higher the price.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Iran produces 85 percent of the world's Saffron, thanks to its relatively dry, sunny climate and agricultural knowledge passed down through generations of farmers. It likely was first discovered in Bronze Age Greece, yet it now grows throughout Europe and Asia.

Saffron is as old as time. Cleopatra was said to bathe in saffron-infused mare's milk before seeing a suitor. "Saffron was used to dye the woolen bolero jackets worn by Minoan women; also,  saffron mixed with red ochre, tallow, and beeswax to make lipstick as a  cosmetics," says John O'Connell in The Book of Spice: From Anise to Zedoary. Medieval monks found that mixing a primitive glue of egg whites and Saffron created a yellow glaze that could stand for gold in producing their manuscripts.

And i dare you to make a Spanish paella or a Persian pilau without Saffron's metallic zing and dayglow yellow punch. Same for dozens of styles of fish stew, yeasted rolls, cakes, and pies found worldwide.

Traditional healers have used Saffron to treat everything from heartache to hemorrhoids. Modern studies have shown the high levels of antioxidants found in Saffron may help ward off inflammation in the body and that it may help treat sexual dysfunction and depression, but the jury's still out on its reported effects on cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Saffron was once spread like hay to freshen Roman public spaces and was even prescribed as an antidote for the bubonic plague, according to the beautifully illustrated The Herball, or Generall historie of plants, by John Gerarde, published in 1597.

Its popularity may have peaked in the Middle Ages as a medicine, but this was also a time when coloring food, particularly food for a feast, was in vogue. A recipe for swan from Le Viandier de Taillevent, a cookbook published in 1300, calls for somewhat graphic skinning of the bird, then cooking it on a spit. Once the bird is on fire, you must "glaze it with Saffron; and when it is cooked, it should be redressed in its skin, with the neck either straight or flat. Endorse the feathers and head with a paste of egg yolks mixed with Saffron and honey."

Saffron still evokes affluence and elegance in any dish. Luckily, a tiny bit goes a long way.

Edited by Mrs. Khamooshi. M

Hamed Biglari

Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Engineering in Gonabad University of Medical Sciences, Razavi Khorasan, Iran

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