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The world’s most expensive spice, laboriously harvested in October from the pistils of the crocus sativus, humanity’s love of saffron goes way back—at least to the ancient Minoans on Santorini and Crete (a fresco from Knossos shows monkeys harvesting it).

Fresco of saffron gatherers from the bronze age excavations in Akrotiri on the greek island of Santorini, Greece.

Introduced to France in the early Middle Ages after the Arabs brought it to Spain, saffron was used not only to flavour food, but as a dye, for medicine, and magic.

From the Middle Ages into the late 19th century it was widely grown in the Gâtinais (the region between the Seine and Loire, in the modern Centre-Val de Loire), and in Quercy and Lauragais in Occitanie. Boynes in the Loiret was once Europe’s saffron capital, marketing 30 tonnes of the highly labour intensive stuff in 1789...A golden age recalled in Boynes at the Musée du Safran.

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Centre-Val de Loire

Herbs and spices


Text © Dana Facaros

Images by anonymous , kiva, Safa Daneshvar