Observe the stigma, the tiny strands at the flower’s center, of any crocus in your garden, and you’ll begin to understand why saffron is so expensive. It takes 220,000 dried stigmas from a specific variety of crocus, Crocus sativus, to make one pound of saffron. The flowers appear over a two-week period only, usually in October. Saffron is available as strands and also ground.
The deep orange red color and unique flavor of the famous Spanish rice dish paella, the Indian dessert kheer and French seafood soup bouillabaisse are the work of tiny saffron threads steeped in liquid during cooking. Used both for color and flavor, saffron is a prized spice in Mediterranean, North African and Asian cuisines and in bread and pastries around the world.
Originating in the Middle East, this spice is planted, harvested, dried and packaged by hand. Today, Iran is the largest producer, while India and Spain are much smaller growers, Spain holds the honor of producing the highest quality saffron.
BELIEVE IT…OR NOT
Cultivated in Southern Europe since the 3rd century or before, saffron has found use in medicine, religious offerings, perfume, make-up, potpourri and, of course, cooking. Its vivid orange red color gives it great use as a fabric dye, which makes it humorous to imagine what Greeks and Romans must have looked like after using it perfume luxurious baths.
Sour Cream Cake with Saffron Orange Glaze