Why saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world

Why saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world

170 thousand flowers are needed to create a pound of saffron.

Photo: Ulrike Leone / Pixabay

Saffron (Crocus sativus) is a really expensive spice. Just to size, you can purchase an ounce for around $ 500, $ 8,000 a pound. What makes it so valuable?

Saffron comes from the saffron flower, specifically its stigmata (pollen-bearing structures).

With a strong and exotic aroma, and a bitter taste, saffron is particularly used in rice and fish, as well as in broths, breads and marinades. When saffron breaks down it creates a yellow gold tint, gives preparations like Paella its characteristic flavor and a golden color.

In addition to giving color and flavor to food, saffron is used to dye fabrics and leathers, and also like stimulating.

Appreciated for thousands of years

Saffron-based pigments have been found in some prehistoric caves, in what is now territory of Iraq. They are at least 4,000 years the time that saffron has been cultivated, in the Eastern Mediterranean saffron was already cultivated in the year 2300 BC. In the time of the great king Sargón de Akkad, born in Azupiranu (City of the Saffron).

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Thousands of flowers for a pound

Each flower has three stigmas that dry, that is saffron. Up to 170,000 individual flowers are needed to produce just 1 pound (0.45 kilograms) of saffron.

Complicated harvest

To harvest the saffron, you need requires a great handwork of many people to pick the flowers, then spread the stigma and dry it.

University of Vermont researcher Arash Ghalehgolabbehbahani explained to Business Insider that many workers are required to harvest 4 pounds of saffron per acre.

They bloom once a year

Purple flowers they only bloom for a period of 6 weeks, from the end of September to the beginning of December.

They are harvested at dawn

Sunlight can break the chemical structure in saffron so there is a specific time of day to harvest them at dawn.

Iran main producer

Italy, Iran, Morocco, India, Greece and Spain are among the largest saffron producers in the world. Iran produces 90 percent of world supply.

Labor in that country is cheap. The workers arrive to work around 5 in the morning and leave around 4 in the afternoon.

According to Ghalehgolabbehbahani, the majority of saffron harvesters are women, and they are paid a maximum of $ 5 a day.

Health benefits

The healthy properties surrounding saffron are related to its high levels of antioxidants Specific: crocina, picrocrocina and safranal. These antioxidants help fight oxidative stress and free radicals in the body.

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Improves mood. A study in the Journal of Behavioral and Brain Science found that a saffron extract increases levels of dopamine in the brain without changing the levels of other brain hormones, such as serotonin.

Aphrodisiac. Saffron has a positive effect in men with erectile dysfunction And it can also increase sexual desire in both men and women.


In the market you can find imitations, some sellers try to pass turmericpetals of red marigold and flower stigmas of lily like saffron.

The real saffron should have the thread frayed at one end, it has a deep red color and when dipped in water it should be orange-yellow. Fake saffron has very little aroma and flavor.

Botanist Sally Francis tells the BBC that saffron has a scent between fruit and flowers. You have to smell the strands and put them on your tongue, they must taste sweet and bitter at the same time.


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