Different studies based on commercial references and fiscal archives have revealed the extraordinary development of saffron cultivation in Catalonia during the Middle Ages. In the market of the Principality, 10 kg of saffron could have had an approximate value of 500 to 1,000 solidi of Barcelona, as opposed to 1,200 lbs of wheat produced in the same area of land and which in normal conditions could have been worth from 110 to 240 solidi of Barcelona.
In addition to its high yield there were other advantages that positioned saffron as a Catalan product of prestige and export:
- Savings product: After its desiccation, saffron conservation was assured for many years, making it an ideal resource to cover extra or unforeseen expenses of the family unit. It was used, for example, as collateral for a loan or as part of the nuptial dowry.
- Multi-cultivation: The efforts dedicated to growing saffron, especially during the harvest months (October - November), did not hinder the cereal supply.
- Adaptability: Catalonia, especially in the interior, has ideal edaphic and climatological characteristics for the cultivation of saffron, which requires Mediterranean-continental climates and limestone and light soils.
Although the first news related to the cultivation of saffron in Catalonia dates back to 1287 in Cerdanyola del Vallés, many documentary references show that in the mid-13th century Catalan saffron already had excellent prestige in markets throughout the Christian West, Eastern Mediterranean and Baltic countries.
This positioning, however, was shortened by the outbreak of the Catalan Civil War (1462 - 1472), which caused a shift of the saffron trade centres towards Zaragoza and Valencia. After the civil conflict, the Principality tried to regain its leadership but Aragonese saffron already had taken over Catalan production.
Even so, the positioning of Catalonia as producer and exporter remained until the end of the 15th century. Little by little, the native production was declining to become an almost symbolic production that endured due to self-consumption.