Spices are among the most common thing you will find in a housewife’s kitchen.
However, not all spices can afford to be in anyone’s spice cabinet.
At a price range of $2,000 – $10,000 a pound, a spice known as saffron is by far the most expensive food on the planet— way more than real balsamic vinegar, caviar, and truffles.
And with such a price tag, not everyone knows exactly how it tastes like. So, most people would rather ditch it all in all!
However, you need to know that saffron is a powerful flavored herb commonly used in gourmet dishes and is responsible for that distinctive bright yellow color of Indian biryanis, Spanish paella, French bouillabaisse, and Italian risotto Milanese.
Yep, those mouth-watering dish carries an expensive secret within them that is extremely addictive and intoxicating!
But, what is saffron anyways?
Saffron is a spice.
But, what exactly is it?
Well, saffron is the stigma of Crocus Flower.
The term saffron points toward the stigma of a crocus flower. However, biologically speaking, the entire plant is saffron.
Crocus Flower is a perennial plant that is not found in the wild. Its scientific name is Crocus Sativa and descended from “wild saffron”, which is known to have originated in Greece. This perennial plant has flowers with fine threads and beautiful purple color threads, its style and stigma being crimson.
How and Where Are They Harvested?
Saffron flower blooms in a particularly regulated environment and requires a lot of hard work and care. It only has a 2-week time when harvested during the year and needs to be harvested by hand.
These flowers are delicate, with each flower giving only three threads of saffron. The fibers are then collected, dried, and later formed as the spice saffron, which provides a bright color to the dishes and recipes it is used in.
This is because of its carotenoid pigment inside called crocin. Due to its bright color, saffron is used as a food color and spice worldwide.
Around 90 percent of the world’s total saffron produce came from Iran. These flowers thrive in the Mediterranean maquis and are mostly grown in lands with the dry summer breeze.
However, it can also withstand cold temperatures of up to -10 degrees. Crocus flowers show their best growth when basking in the bright sun and only flowers in mid-autumn.
What’s With The Price?
On average, a single flower of crocus can yield 30mg of fresh saffron. So, to obtain 1 gram of saffron, around 150 crocus flowers are needed. Furthermore, a significant amount of effort and labor is required since they need to be harvested by hand.
Taking the large amounts into account, it takes a lot of time and effort. Thus, making saffron delicate and extremely expensive.
How About The Taste?
There is no spice more special than saffron in terms of flavor. It has this subtly grassy and earthy aroma and flavor and the similar, sweet floral and honey. This spice straddles savory and sweetness effortlessly with an unmistakable flavor and scent and grants a prominent golden hue to every dish recipe it graces.
Just a few threads of saffron can transform a lengthy list of dishes and add a mysterious, magical allure to everything from milk puddings and risottos to fish stews and rich curries.
But, Is It Worth The Cost?
Because of its dizzying price tag, most people turn the other way around. However, saffron is a controversial ingredient. Those who look for authenticity will never cook a classic saffron-based recipe without this spice. And people with very sensitive palates will argue that saffron adds a unique flavor that you cannot find anywhere else in the world! To such people, that one strand or a little pinch of saffron will make or break the dish. Therefore it is worth the high cost.
However, if you are not into those kinds of things, then there are other spices out there you can use to replicate its yellow glow and flavor without breaking the bank.
How To Use Saffron?
After the pain of closing your eyes as you give thousands of dollars to the cashier for a tiny bag of saffron, you might be wondering what you should do with it.
Well, the most classic use of saffron is rice dishes: paellas, pilafs, and risottos. Just a pinch brings bright flavor, aroma, and color against the bland grains.
Dessert is another classical use, and this spice can go anywhere vanilla does, like cookies and custards. It is also best on vegetables and light meat like poultry, onions, and cauliflower.
In general cooking, saffron is best added early on cooking to fuse with the other ingredients. If there is already water in the pan, then crumble the threads or soak them in a tablespoon of water for 10 minutes before adding. If you need the delicate flavor to come, then keep other seasonings and flavor to a minimum.
The thing with saffron is that everyone has varying opinions about its taste, thanks to its varying flavor when used. So, you will not know for sure until you try it out for yourself. With so many health benefits, saffron can also be added as a spice by juicing it using the best masticating juicer and mixing it with your favorite fruits to get a great concoction.
Whether you use it as the star or a supporting player of your dish, saffron is worth getting to know. This quality stuff is easier to find now than ever, and purchasing an ounce or gram is such an affordable luxury that it will surely pay for itself over and over again.
Do you have something on your mind? Feel free to voice it out in the comment section below!
Until then, have fun creating luxurious golden dishes with saffron!