The irresistible, captivating, and exotic saffron is something that people around the globe love to keep in their homes. The beautiful crimson saffron strands are magical, and it is considered the most expensive spice in the world. In fact, it is rare and has sustained to keep its position as an extravagant spice over centuries and centuries.
Saffron is a pungency obtained from the flower of Crocus sativus, popularly learned as the “saffron crocus”. It has become the most expensive spice in the world because of its slow propagation, difficulty in harvesting, and scarcity.
Thus, what Saffron actually is and why is it so expensive. If you scroll down a bit more, the answers lie right beneath. So, let’s get started.
What Is Saffron And Why Is It So Expensive? (Red Gold Value Unveiled)
Let us begin by asking a simple question. Whenever you hit the store and reach the spice slot, have you ever seen large containers of saffron, among other spices? Or, do you think that you’ll find any if you search in any well-known online shopping sites?
Well, actually, you will hardly find a saffron jar that would contain more than five ounces in your local store. And, even if you do, it will cost an amount beyond your imagination that you’d think a spice would cost!
True to the terms, saffron is indeed very expensive, probably the most high-end spice that you could find in the world. Saffron is a spice fetched from the flower of Crocus sativus, generally learned as the “saffron crocus“, which is a piquant perennial herb. The history of saffron runs back to the days of yore. And, it takes us back to the age of Indus, Egyptian, and Persian civilization. The manuscripts say that only royal families used this luxurious spice for fabric dyes, oils, and medicinal purposes.
When looking at the growth, the subsurface parts of the plant, corms or bulbs, can be utilized to make a new plant as this plant has no seed propagation. And, the unique element of the tinted flowers of saffron is the three stigmas that slipped over the petals, which are generally about 25-30 mm long. The flower also encloses three yellow stamens, which do not include the active compounds and usually are not accumulated. Plus, each bulb makes one to seven flowers.
The flamboyant bloody-red styles and stigma, which are known as threads, are gathered and dried for use primarily as a coloring agent, flavoring, and aromatizer in food. It generally gives a yellow-golden color to the foods when added. In addition to its culinary usage, saffron is utilized for the following purposes:
- In cosmetology
- For Pharmaceutical purposes
- As a textile dye
- In Perfumery
Just like saffron gives a yellowish-orange color to food when added, cayenne and paprika are another two spices that act as colorant spices. But are they the same? Click here, as we have a fully detailed article if you need answers.
Why Saffron Is So Expensive?
Over millennia, saffron has been in the spotlight for being the most expensive spice in the world. While it is incredibly high in cost, it is also a rare ingredient relative to other spices available all around the globe. Thus, you might presumably have doubts as to why saffron is so expensive?
There are three significant facts about saffron being so costly. Firstly, the Crocus sativus plant, in which the saffron is derived, is a very slowly reproduced herb. In fact, the purple flowers only blossom on a 6-week stretch from late September to early December.
The next reason is the key cause for saffron to be so high-priced. It requires a highly complex harvesting process. As mentioned before, the flower has three tiny, stringy stigmas in the center. Hence, the laborers have to be prompt to pick all the flowers.
This is such delicate work that no machinery could be involved and done only using human hands. The workers scrupulously remove the stigma from their hands without damaging the flower. The highest grade saffron is generally made up of just the very tips of the stigma.
Thus, proving the intensity of their subtle work, it can take up to 40 hours of the manual workforce to deliver just one kilo of finest saffron.
Moreover, saffron is harvested in only one particular period of the day. Since higher proximate humidity in the air can impact the quality of saffron and sunlight can damage the chemical structure in the saffron, the producers generally prefer to reap it early in the morning every day.
Ultimately, the slow propagation and the higher labor-intensity harvesting lead to scarcity of this precious spice. Can you even imagine that you will need more than 100 flowers to have just one gram of saffron! But that is true. Since one flower only carries three stigmas and they are so light-weighted, you apparently need more than 400,000 strands, which means you need around 150,000 flowers to produce one kilo of saffron.
So, it is clear that the harvesting process of saffron is not at all an easy task, and it requires time and effort like no other spice on earth! Consequently, depending on all these facts, saffron becomes the most expensive spice in the world.However, due to the high cost and lack of this spice, there is a risk of some people coming up with fake saffron. And some even tend to send artificially made saffron to the market.
Hence, the quality preservation of saffron requires authorization in the international trade market following international ISO or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards and benchmarks. And, one way you could recognize pure saffron is that high-quality saffron should be deep red in color, contain little to no yellow, and the threads should be trumpet-shaped.
Which Country Has The Best Saffron In The World?
At once, when you hear the words “the best saffron in the world”, two countries might strike your head in a single shot- Iran, and Kashmir. Well, you may be correct. But still, there are things that you need to sort out, and that is what we are going to do from this section.
With regards to Iran, it is the country that contributes to the world’s saffron production from about 90%. The reason for this is that this country possesses favorable soil for the Crocus sativus plant to grow without any interruptions, and they have a sound amount of manual workforce.
However, just because Iran produces the most saffron, it does not mean that they have the best saffron in the world. They are undoubtedly the best saffron producers, but according to the data we have collected, Kashmiri saffron is deemed the best saffron in the world.
Moreover, apart from Iran and Kashmir, Afghanistan, Persia, Morocco, India, Spain, Italy, and Netherlands are also countries that contribute to the world’s saffron production. The data shows that in several years, Afghanistan saffron has also been regarded as the best in the world. But still, Kashmir saffron has been able to secure its position.
Now since you know what saffron is and why it is so expensive, click here for a complete guide on how to use saffron in cooking.
Saffron is one of the most expensive commodities in the world and is even celebrated as “Red Gold” among industries.
Slow propagation, high labor intensity harvesting, and scarcity are the key reasons why pure saffron becomes so high in cost. When Iran delivers about 90% of the world’s saffron production, Kashmiri saffron is considered the best in the world, while Afghanistan saffron, too, has entered the competition.
However, though we all know saffron as a spice that is included in food in general, there are many ways that it contributes to several other industries.
Thus, we hope that you got answers if you ever wondered what is saffron and why is it so expensive. And if you ever sighted a jar at your store next time, just go ahead and purchase one. Believe it will be worth the price!