A degree of uncertainty surrounds the origin of the English word, "saffron" although it can be traced to have stemmed immediately from 12th-century Old French term Safran, which comes from the Latin word safranum. Safranum comes from the Persian intercessor Za'ferân. Old Persian is the first language in which the use of saffron in cooking is recorded, with references dating back thousands of years. In fact some sources argue that it originated from Middle East/Persia and became associated with Greek, Spanish, and Indian cuisines.
Saffron was detailed in a 7th-century. Documentation of saffron’s use over the span of 4,000 years in the treatment of some 90 illnesses has been uncovered. Saffron-based pigments have indeed been found in 50,000 year-old depictions of prehistoric places in northwest Iran.
Records shows the use of saffron goes back to ancient times when it was used as a dye, in perfumes and drugs, as well as for culinary purposes.
Almost all saffron grows in a belt bounded by the Mediterranean in the west, and the rugged region encompassing Iran and Kashmir in the east. The other continents produce smaller amounts. Some 300 t (300,000 kg) of dried whole threads and powder are gleaned yearly of which 50 t (50,000 kg) is top-grade "coupe" saffron. Iran answers for around 90–93% of global production and exports much of it. A few of Iran's drier eastern and southeastern provinces, including Fars, Kerman, and those in the Khorasan region, glean the bulk of modern global production. In 2005, the second-ranked Greece produced 5.7 t (5,700.0 kg), while Morocco and Kashmir, tied for third rank, each produced 2.3 t (2,300.0 kg).
In Iran, the world's leading producer, the erstwhile and northeasterly Khorasan Province, which in 2004 was divided in three, grows 95 percent of Iranian saffron: the hinterlands of Birjand, Ghayen, Ferdows in South Khorasan Province, along with areas abutting Gonabad and Torbat-e Heydarieh in Razavi Khorasan Province, are its key cropping areas.