Why is saffron so rare? – Leena Grow Saffron Crocus Flowers

Why does it seem to have been the only colour of significance in ancient India, and yet become so obscure? There is quite a story attached to it. One thing is certain, this colour would have been an essential part of the costume of the ancient mariners, who came from far beyond the sea’s edge; and that this fact was lost to us until well after the time of the Portuguese invasion, is an astonishing fact. When the Portuguese colonised India in the 14th century, the country was largely unexplored country, and few men had seen much of the world—except those born in India. Their clothes were of pure Indian cotton. The Indians of the West Coast of India were probably, therefore, very different from the Indians of India at the close of the medieval period. It is possible that the Portuguese colonists came across a kind of saffron that did not exist in India, and so introduced it into the country. However, some of them would have been natives of the West Coast as well—or, at any rate, from a region of western India which was not yet known to the Portuguese, and where they did not expect to find it. The Portuguese introduced saffron into the West Coast of India in the 1620s. They first made their appearance on the coast of Ceylon, and, on their way down to the Indian Ocean, they brought in their ships the Indian hemp seed, which was then growing in great abundance. They planted it in plantations all along the coastline of Ceylon. Some plantations, perhaps of indigo, were established in Ceylon and in northern Malaya. When a Portuguese sailor got into a plantation at Ceylon, he began to work as a blacksmith at his trade, for a very decent fee, and so became accustomed to the black silk of the local people. The Dutch had already established themselves with the Indian hemp, and by the time the Portuguese arrived they had also found that the Indian hemp was a source of many commodities—it would have been difficult to manufacture it for other purposes. The Portuguese made use of the local people for the production of some goods of importance. One example of this is their use of the cocoanut. It is to my mind one of the finest products of the Indies. I wonder why no African country now has a similar industry. The Portuguese planted the cocoanut in plantations all along the coast of Ceylon in 1638, and this practice continued after the Portuguese had departed. It was the first plantation in which native negroes were produced

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