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Saffron-An Exotic Spice Grown in France

by | May 7, 2019 | Uncategorized

A close-up of saffron threads.

I’d always thought of Iran or the Kashmir region of India as a source of Saffron, but not France. 

However, Saffron is believed to be a European spice, and its origin was most likely in Crete. It was cultivated throughout Europe in the 14th century, and France was a significant producer.

French farmers have been reviving the cultivation of high-quality Saffron because there’s strong domestic and international demand for it.

The French use spices frequently in cooking and use them to make simple recipes taste fantastic just by adding a spice or two. They know that one of the easiest ways to produce an interesting, healthy dish at home from simple ingredients is to add a fabulous spice like Saffron. 

The History of Saffron in France

Saffron was brought to Spain in the 10th century from Asia Minor. However, by the 14th century, France’s own domestic production made it a significant producer. The most important production was found in the Venaissin, Quercy, Drome, Vaucluse, and Gatinais regions.

Production reached its height in the 16th century, and France remained an important producer for almost 300 years. The output declined towards the 19th century and practically disappeared after World War 1.

Today the artisanal production of Saffron is returning to France, and the beautiful flower that yields the Saffron threads is often cultivated organically. It’s one of the most expensive spices in the world (around $500 per ounce) because of the painstaking work needed to harvest the Saffron – a harvest which is limited to once per year.

The French producers are recognized as experts in the selection and drying of saffron threads, which are essential steps in their production. While France is a small producer of this spice, it’s one of the top 3 or 4 exporters worldwide. Its production is recognized as being top quality.

How The French Use Saffron 

The French, who are avid travelers,  use spices frequently in cooking. They know how to make simple recipes taste fantastic by adding a spice or two.

The domestic demand in France for Saffron has increased as producers and chefs have created many inventive ways of using it: not only in sauce-based dishes but also infused in jellies and desserts.

French saffron producers and gourmet artisans make many saffron-infused products: 

  • mustard 
  • fruit jellies 
  • cider vinegar
  • spice cakes
  • jams 
  • shortbread cookies
  • cordials

The home cook uses it not only for sauces or rice-based dishes but also infused in desserts.

3 Simple French Recipes With Saffron:

1. Soup with Red Mullet (“Rougets”) and Saffron

For 4:


8 Red Mullet filets (can be frozen)

6 Tomatoes

20 cl of Dry White wine

8 cloves of garlic

1 bunch of fresh basil leaves

2 (or 0.2 grams) pinches of Saffron threads

olive oil

salt & pepper


-chop the tomatoes and cook for 25 minutes in the white wine with the garlic, Saffron and 20 cl of water 

-mix with an immersion blender; salt & pepper to taste

-add the red mullet filets to the mixture and cook for 5 minutes longer

-once cooked, mash the fish filets with a fork

-divide out into 4 bowls

-add the fresh basil leaves and let infuse for 1 minute

-serve with olive oil lightly drizzled over the top

2. Fresh Peach Salad with Lemon and Saffron (recipe by French Chef Alain Passard)

For 4


4 yellow peaches

1 lemon

1 pinch of Saffron threads

4 TB of olive oil

2 TB of acacia honey

1 TB of Grenadine syrup

1 pat of salted butter

50 gr/  of sliced almonds


-cut each of the peaches into 6 slices and the lemon into  6 equal slices

-cook slowly on a low fire the following ingredients: peaches, lemon and salted butter with the Saffron, honey and grenadine syrup

-let the ingredients stew slowly on low heat for 20-30 minutes until it has the texture of a rough applesauce

-toast the sliced almonds lightly in the oven 

-before serving, drizzle the fruit mixture lightly with olive oil and serve with the toasted almonds on top.

3. Fresh Navel Oranges with Saffron Fruit Salad:


Navel Oranges (1 per person)

Saffron Threads (1 per Navel Orange)


-slice up large navel oranges

-add a few threads of saffron

-leave this mixture for about 2 hours in a covered glass bowl in the refrigerator

The saffron threads will infuse into the oranges’ natural juices.

This makes a fabulous, simple, healthy dessert with an exotic twist!

Where to buy saffron threads online: sells several high-quality non-GMO verified saffron brands, although not from France. Here are two:

  1. Golden Saffron-Pure premium saffron threads on
  2. Gathering of Saffron-Pure Spanish saffron threads on


The French use spices frequently in cooking and know how to make simple recipes taste fantastic by adding a spice or two. They know that one of the easiest ways to produce an interesting, healthy dish at home from simple ingredients is to add a fabulous spice like saffron. 

Its cost makes it prohibitive to use every day, but mixing it into your regular recipes from time to time will keep you from getting bored with the same old foods on repeat. Saffron’s health properties are an additional benefit that have been known since ancient times.

And now you: Do you like Saffron, and have you used it in your cooking at home? Send me an email and let me know!

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Photo courtesy of

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