Saffron is used in cooked dishes, but also in cosmetics and as a medicinal product. It is known as the most difficult spice to produce and therefore has a high market value. The plant grows well in Mediterranean scrublands and on arid or semi-arid lands. Precipitation, followed by several dry summers, plays a vital role in the cultivation of saffron, guaranteeing a good yield. Plants must be put under sunlight to increase the chances of having a good harvest and make sure the plants grow well. In Morocco, saffron is mainly cultivated in the provinces of Taroudant and Ouarzazate. Once dried, the stigmata measure between 5 and 25mm. They are of an intense red colour, are curved and fragile.
Saffron originated in Greece and then spread all around the Mediterranean. The plant was considered as originating from the Middle East, but has been present in many civilisations. The Chinese emperor Chen Nong mentioned it in his medical book in 2700 B.C. It is also one of the 500 medicinal substances cited in a set of Egyptian papyri (known as Ebers papyrus) considered to be the first medical treatise. The harvest of saffron has been done since ancient times, and to this day, solely by hand and requires long working hours from flowering to sorting. This arduousness explains saffron’s high price and the very small quantities of the product put on the market.