Saffron – The $1000 Exotic Spice

Lovers of the Spanish dish paella know that saffron is a key ingredient in this delectable dish.

saffron

First cultivated in Greece, the spice saffron originates from the Saffron Crocus flower.

Its bitter taste and hay-like fragrance contains the carotenoid dye, crocin, that gives food a rich golden-yellow hue.

The saffron crocus thrives in Mediterrean like climates, growing best in strong direct sunlight.

Saffron

The harvest window for saffron can be very short – lasting anywhere from 2 to 29 days a year, depending on the climate of the growth region.

Like many other ancient spices, saffron was also used as a medicinal, treating approximately 90 illnesses. 

As a powerful antioxidant, saffron research is on-going today. On the influence of its medicinal properties on such illnesses as cancer, MS, and Alzheimers.

A Little About Saffron’s Past

An exotic spice, saffron has a long ancient multicultural history dating back to the Stone Age. 

Over the course of time, the value of saffron cooking and medicinal properties spread throughout the Mediterranean, moving slowly into Eurasia, North African and North America.

Saffron cultivation was introduced to Spain, France and Italy by the Moorish civilization.

Saffron

And the Europeans eventually brought saffron to the Americas. 

Once in America, the Pennsylvania Dutch became the prime curators of the saffron spice.

Its medicinal qualities and subsequent trading history, like so many other rare spices. This accounts for the popularity of saffron reaching pricing levels analogous to that of the price of gold.

Saffron

Today, saffron’s unusual taste and food coloring properties contribute to its wide and diverse use in Arab, Central Asian, European, Indian, Iranian, Moroccan and Cornish cuisines including sweets and liquors.

In India and China, saffron is also used as a fabric dye.

The Price of Saffron

Saffron whole and retail prices can range from US $500/pound to US $5,000/pound. 

In Western countries, the average retail price is $1,000/pound. 

Saffron

And between 70,000 and 200,000 saffron threads comprise a pound!

As expected, saffron cultivators grow a variety of threads ranging in flavors. From Spain’s mellow, Italy’s robust, to the intense quality grown in Macedonian Greek, Iranian, and Kashmiri Indian regions.

Currently, the U.S. bans saffron from Iran and India bans the export of saffron from Kashmir, both highly desired and, clearly, hard to get.

So, all you paella lovers can order 2 grams (.07oz) of Spanish saffron on Amazon at $11.95 ($169.50 / Ounce). 

Now you can really appreciate what makes paella so irresistible!