SAFFRON name for a fall-flowering plant ( Crocus sativus ) of the family Iridaceae ( iris family) and also for a dye obtained therefrom. The plant is native to Asia Minor, where for centuries it has been cultivated for its aromatic orange-yellow stigmas . The stigmas, handpicked and dried, yield saffron powder, the source of the principal yellow dye of the ancient world. It was used for numerous purposes by many ancient cultures, including the Sumerians, Phoenicians, Minoans, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Persians. The plant is still grown in limited quantities for the powder, which is used in medicines and perfumes and for flavoring, especially in Mediterranean cooking. It has been estimated that the stigmas of about 4,000 flowers are required for one ounce of saffron powder. Called " Kesar " in the rest of India, saffron is used as a flavoring agent in many food preparations, from rice dishes, such as biryani, to various sweets.
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