According to Greek mythology, Crocus was a handsome young man who was friends with Hermès. One day, Crocus and Hermès were playing frisbee on Mount Olympus, when Hermès accidentally tossed the frisbee at Crocus' forehead, killing him abruptly. From the wound, three drops of blood fertilized the ground from which a flower with three red pistils blossomed. The flower became a symbol of vital strength and resurrection. It was named Crocus in honor of his passing.
Legend has it that risotto alla milanese was created haphazardly. In the 14th or 15th century, depending on the version, the story goes that a painter working on the Domo inadvertently dropped some saffron in a bowl of rice and decided to try it, giving birth to the risotto milanese we know today. At the time, saffron was used by painters to create ochre colored paint. The recipe, however, evolved over centuries and concretized itself in the mid 19th century to the dish we know today. In 2007, the commune of Milan declared risotto milanese the traditional Milanese dish. It went on to join ossobuco, pannetone, michetta and cassoeula on the list.
Originally from Greece, saffron is cultivated in the surrounding area of the Mediterranean. While France was the main producer in the Middle-Ages, two thirds of today's saffron is supplied by India who produces 60 tons annually.
Stigmas are harvested before daybreak when they're protected by the unopened flower petals. It's a real race against time because the flower blooms in one day, and all harvesting is done by hand. It takes 150 000 to 200 000 flowers to collect one kg of stigmas which makes saffron one of the most expensive spices in the world priced between 30 000 to 45 000 euros a kg. This is where it gets its name "red gold" from.
In perfumery, saffron belongs to the olfactif family of spices. Its brassy almost tar-like notes, as well as its floral and citrus tones make it a complex material that can be paired with flowery or woody scents. Saffron needs to be handled by the perfumer with extreme dexterity because notes can easily get crushed in the process. In the right doses, saffron add a spicy flare different from that of pepper, cinnamon and cardamom which are traditionally used in fragrance.