If you’ve seen this mysterious spice on store shelves or wondered what all the buzz was about, you’re in the right place. We’ve got everything you need to know about saffron right here!
What Is Saffron?
Saffron is a rare and exquisite spice that is unique as it is flavorful. Saffron is considered to be one of the most luxurious spices in the world, as it is the most expensive to purchase by weight. Saffron is extracted from the crocus sativus flower, by handpicking the stigmas, the thread like female parts of the plant. The stigmas have a gorgeous deep orange reddish hue, developed mainly by crocin, a carotenoid compound. The strands can either be dried and kept in their original form or milled into a fine powder. Saffron is said to be sweet, with floral notes, along with grassy and earthy flavors. However, this spice’s flavor and aroma have been described in several different ways by different people. The best way to judge how saffron tastes is to try it for yourself in a dish where saffron is present.
Why Is Saffron So Expensive?
Saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world, and for a good reason. Saffron is derived from the saffron crocus (crocus sativus flower), an autumn perennial. The saffron crocus originated from the Mediterranean region. However, Iran is the world’s largest producer, providing around 90 percent of saffron each year. Other countries that produce large amounts of saffron include Spain and Italy. Although Iran, Spain, and Italy are responsible for most of the saffron sold today, the saffron crocus plant is hardier, can be grown in many different climates, and is relatively easy to grow.
Saffron can sell for a hefty $29,000 per kilogram. But why? It’s all about the harvesting process that causes the price of this spice to go up. Each saffron crocus only produces three stigmas, where the saffron is directly derived from. Also, a saffron crocus bulb will only create one flower. To produce one kilogram of saffron, 150,000 flowers are needed. The harvesting of saffron is further complicated, as the stigmas are handpicked, and this can be extremely time-consuming. It’s no wonder that this exotic spice is a pricey ingredient.
Types of Saffron
There are three main types of saffron. They slightly differ in color which helps the consumer differentiate the quality between spices:
- _Mongra or Lacha Saffron _
- _Aquilla Saffron _
- _Spanish Superior and Creme Saffron _
Mongra Saffron is the highest quality saffron that can be purchased. It has a deep red color and robust flavor. Mongra Saffron is commonly found in India. You’d be hard-pressed to find Mongra saffron anywhere other than India, making it the most expensive saffron around.
Aquilla Saffron is the most common saffron in the world, as it comes from Iran which produces 90 percent of the globe’s saffron. Aquilla saffron is lighter in color compared to mongra saffron, and less expensive, however, it is still considered high-quality.
Spanish Superior is lower in quality than both mongra, and aquilla. Spanish superior is commonly found in the united states. It has the least amount of red color, containing highlights of yellow. It is considered inferior to the other two saffrons on our list, due to its lack of red color, and the amount of floral waste found in the spice.
Six Deliciously Elegant Saffron Recipes
1. Saffron Rice
Incorporating saffron into a simple rice recipe is a wonderful way to introduce yourself to this luxurious spice. The saffron will be the star of the show, and you can hone in on the lovely essence of this incredibly rich ingredient. This recipe gives some helpful tips on how to pull off this dish successfully, such as preparing the saffron. The simplicity of this recipe is a high starting point for those looking to try saffron for the first time. Even though this meal is easy to pull off, the flavors are remarkable.
2. Persian Chicken With Saffron
Persian chicken is a traditional dish in Persian cuisine. This meal consists of many spices, but the saffron is still the star of the show. The saffron gives the chicken a gorgeous golden color and unique flavor. This savory dish would pair well with simple dishes made of rice. Find the recipe for this elegant savory meal here.
3. Saffron Pear Cake
Saffron is not limited to just savory dishes, it can also be incorporated into the most elegant exotic tasting desserts. This saffron pear cake is simply stunning. The cake is a modest butter cake dressed in its finest, adorned with a juicy pear. The saffron is added to the batter creating quite a unique and elegant dessert. If you’re a foodie, this recipe is definitely for you.
4. Saffron Tea
Saffron is also known for some health benefits, such as improving mood and reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer. A great way to take advantage of the health benefits of saffron would be to create a simple tea and to enjoy it daily. This saffron tea recipe gives a handy guide, providing photos on how to prepare this tea step-by-step.
5. Ligurian Seafood Stew With A Basil Saffron Cream Sauce
This magnificent seafood stew has tender scallops, shrimp, flounder, and crab meat on a bed of linguine, dressed in a heavenly basil saffron cream sauce. This dish is hearty, offering a lot of substance, with a unique, rich flavor. The sauce in this recipe brings everything together, making this a real stand-out meal for any special occasion.
6. Risotto Milanese
If you’ve ever had risotto, then you already know that it’s a decadent meal on its own. Adding some saffron to risotto will give this dish that wow effect. Risotto does take some time and patience to prepare, however, the end result is always worth it. Risotto can even be enjoyed as a meal on its own due to its rich flavor. You also have the option of pairing it with something of a lighter fare to not detract from the dish.
Saffron is exotic, expensive, and unique. When you add this extraordinary spice to your meals, it will offer some remarkable flavor. Although saffron is pricey, a little bit goes a long way, a small amount could last you quite some time. Saffron can be stored up to six months in your kitchen, as long as you keep it secured in an airtight container in a cool, dark space. Saffron is quite accessible, as it’s available to purchase in many grocery stores as well as online, such as Amazon where there is a large selection. Make room for a new spice in your cupboard, and purchase some saffron today. Start with some of the delicious saffron recipes we’ve shared in this article, or begin by adding saffron to some elegant dishes of your own.