II: Saffron

The flower that inspired rich Austrians to commit piracy.

II: Saffron
Photo by Mehdi Torabi / Unsplash

Good morning. Today is duodi, the 2nd of Vendémiaire, Year CCXXXI. We celebrate safran, the spice that comes from a sexy flower. (If you're a new subscriber and you don't know what this is, click here.)

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Saffron contains three antioxidants – crocetin, crocin and safranal – that are linked with improved neurological function. Research is focusing on how the abilities of saffron can be boosted to treat depression and memory loss. For maximum benefit, drink a tea with a few red saffron threads mixed in.

Saffron is famous for being the most expensive spice in the world. This member of the crocus family blooms in southeastern France for just two weeks every year. The three red stamens lose their flavor soon after the flower opens each morning, so they must be harvested by hand at a very specific time just before that, and carefully, so as not to lose any part of the fragile flower sex organ. It takes 150,000 flowers to produce a single kilo of saffron.

That's why you'll see a big spice jar with just a few red twigs in it that costs more than $20. But for people to go to all this trouble to harvest it, there must be some spectacular benefit, right?

Yes, enough to start a war.