With its gorgeous color and distinct flavor, this ancient spice is worth the price tag.
By Heather Riske Updated on January 4, 2023
Saffron is often referred to as “red gold,” and for good reason—it’s the world’s most expensive spice, retailing for anywhere from $10 to $20 for a gram of the real stuff. With a subtly sweet, hard-to-pin-down flavor, it also serves as a natural food dye and is the key to unlocking the brilliant golden color of classic dishes such as bouillabaisse, paella, and risotto alla Milanese. But what exactly is saffron, and why is it so expensive? Here, learn all about the precious spice, including where it comes from, how to cook with it, and how to tell the real deal from impostors.
What Is Saffron?
Believed to have first been discovered in Bronze Age Greece, saffron has been cultivated for thousands of years for use as a spice, dye and medicine. Saffron comes from the stigmas of crocus sativus, a flowering plant in the iris family with bright purple petals that’s also known as “saffron crocus” or “autumn crocus.” Each flower only produces a few of the prized, crimson-red stigmas (commonly referred to as threads), which are hand-picked and then dried. Native to southwest Asia, the flowers are somewhat temperamental and prefer a dry, semi-arid climate. Today, Iran is the world’s leading producer of saffron, but the spice is also cultivated in Afghanistan, Greece, Morocco, India, and Spain, among other countries.
Sustainably Sourced Spices
Sourced Directly, Fairly & Transparently From Heray Farmers Cooperative in Herat Afghanistan.