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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Saffron occurs only once in the Old Testament, viz. in , where it is mentioned along with several fragrant and stimulant substances, such as spikenard, calamus, and cinnamon, trees of frankincense, myrrh, and aloes; we may, therefore, suppose that it was some substance possessed of similar properties. Saffron has from the earliest times been cultivated in Asiatic countries, as it still is in Persia and Cashmere. Dioscorides describes the different kinds of it, and Pliny states that the benches of the public theaters were strewn with saffron: indeed 'the ancients frequently made use of this flower in perfumes. Not only saloons, theaters, and places which were to be filled with a pleasant fragrance were strewed with this substance, but all sorts of vinous tinctures retaining the scent were made of it, and this costly perfume was poured into small fountains, which diffused the odor that was so highly esteemed. Even fruit and comfitures placed before guests and the ornaments of the rooms were spread over with it. It was used for the same purpose as the modern potpourri.' In the present day a very high price is given in India for saffron imported from Cashmere; native dishes are often colored and flavored with it, and it is in high esteem as a stimulant medicine.

The name saffron, as usually applied, does not denote the whole plant, nor even the whole flower of crocus sativus, but only the stigmas, with part of the style, which, being plucked out, are carefully dried. These, when prepared, are dry, narrow, thread-like, and twisted together, of an orange-yellow color, having a peculiar aromatic and penetrating odor, with a bitterish and somewhat aromatic taste, tinging the mouth and saliva of a yellow color. Sometimes the stigmas are prepared by being submitted to pressure, and thus made into what is called cake saffron, a form in which it is still imported from Persia into India. Hay saffron is obtained in this country chiefly from France and Spain, though it is also sometimes prepared from the native crocus cultivated for this purpose. Saffron was formerly highly esteemed as a stimulant medicine, and still enjoys high repute in Eastern countries, both as a medicine and as a condiment.





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Saffron'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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