A to Z Saffron: Red Gold

Saffron is literally cooking’s golden child—with its deep orange hue bringing a vibrant color and flavor to any dish—and it’s also the most expensive spice in the world. Saffron has always been one of the world’s most expensive spices, treasured for its goldenrod color and rich, distinct flavor. Well, by the 16th century, it cost as much as gold and today, top-quality saffron will run you up to $10,000 a pound.

What Is Saffron?

Saffron is a spice from the Crocus sativus flower, which is a cousin of the lily. The saffron derives from the stigma and styles — called threads — within the flower itself. Saffron is made from the saffron crocus, a purple flower that blooms in autumn and can grow almost anywhere in the world. But while the plants might be geographically adaptable, they’re very particular: the flowers only bloom for one to three weeks each year and must be hand-picked.

Which Country product saffron?

With harvesting more than 450 tons annually, Iran accounts for almost 95% of world production of Persian saffron. This spice is perfectly fitted with the dry climate and soil composition. In addition, the eminent crop protection and harvesting processes, makes the Iranian saffron, the best and costliest exquisite condiment in the world.

Having tens of centuries of fame and name in  glowing of this ancient fragrance of Persia, the Iranian saffron has been sitting heads and shoulders above all the producing countries around the world. This is a gift from holy mother of earth which was conferred to that specific soil.

At present saffron production is limited to Iran and some other countries with old civilization such as Spain, Greece, Italy or India. Since Iran has been the main saffron producer, the global production of saffron hinges largely on the output of this country.

Other than mentioned producers, saffron is also produced in artisan style by some countries like New Zealand, China and Australia. Nominally identical, natural handpicked saffron is totally different from the artisan on

Why Is Saffron So Expensive?

Now that you know where saffron comes from, you may still find yourself wondering exactly why it is so costly. The answer, in short, is that Saffron is very expensive due to the difficulty of harvesting it. Farmers must harvest the delicate threads from each flower by hand.

Logically, the high cost of saffron is due to the difficulty of manually extracting large numbers of minute stigmas, which are the only part of the flower with the desired aroma and flavor. This process needs precision, dedication and professionalism in the work. To gain 1 kg of dried saffron, almost 170,000 flowers,100 kg flowers, from a field should be harvested.

The saffron crocus only blossoms during a short period in the fall. Once a flower blooms, it must be harvested that same day, as it begins to wilt almost immediately . So in order to harvest the crop, thousands of workers have to kneel down on the earth, day and night for two weeks.

Once harvested, the stigmas must be dried quickly, before decomposition or mould ruins the batch’s premium quality. The traditional method of drying involves spreading the fresh stigmas over plates of fine mesh, which are then dried over hot coals or wood or in oven-heated rooms where temperatures reach 30–35 °C (86–95 °F) for 10–12 hours. Afterwards the dried spice is preferably sealed in airtight glass containers and ready to export.

Considering the intensive work needed for a comparatively small yield, it is not difficult to see why Saffron is so expensive.

Which factor effect on saffron quality?

Quality of saffron is based on 3 factors:

  1. Crocin is a chemical that is responsible for the color of Saffron. The higher the Crocin the higher the coloring strength of Saffron. Customers demand high Crocin level Saffron.
  2. Safranal is a constituent responsible for the saffron aroma . In other words, it is why saffron smells how it does.
  3. Picrocrocin is why saffron tastes a little bit bitter and it is responsible for the taste of Saffron.

What are the saffron kind?

Just as saffron is prized in many parts of the world, it is actually harvested in a few different places as well. While the general characteristics of saffron will not vary much, there are some distinct qualities to each variety, and connoisseurs tend to have their own preferences. the there is different saffron type.

To help you get started on the path to finding your own favorite, let’s take a look at the three famous saffron :

1- Iranian Saffron

Iranian Saffron known as the “red gold”, saffron is a magical ingredient in Persian culture, from aromatic foods and colorful desserts, to the physical and spiritual medicine. In Iran, saffron is cultivated by professional growers, who don’t use chemical materials for cultivation. It has no synthetic pesticides, preservatives, food additives or colorings.

2- Greek Saffron

Saffron from Greece is irreplaceable: musky, sweet, floral, bitter, and bolder than other saffron. The flavor is strikingly earthy, with notes of honey and violet. Greek saffron is generally earthier and a touch more bitter than other types of saffron, but the honey notes are much more intense.

3- Spanish Saffron

Called Azafran by the Spanish, this variety of saffron spice is mellow, sweet, and floral. The aroma is irreplaceable: musky, honeyed, floral, bitter, and fierce. You’ll find the perfume to be hypnotic. The flavor is penetratingly husky, earthy, with notes of honey and violet.

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