Unmistakable yet verging on the indescribable, the flavor of saffron is unlike anything else.
What is it?
Saffron is a fragrant spice comprised of the bright red stigmas harvested from the saffron crocus flower. The stigmas resemble short, bright red, delicate threads with occasional yellow tips. Saffron crocus is an autumnal flower that has been cultivated for over 3,000 years. The early history of its cultivation is unknown but it is believed that it originated in either Greece, Iran, or Mesopotamia.
Saffron is grown in Greece, India, Spain, and Italy, however, the vast majority, about 90%, is cultivated in Iran. Saffron is an incredibly labor-intensive crop to harvest and over 75,000 flowers are required to produce only one pound of saffron threads. As a result, saffron is the most expensive spice on the planet and costs roughly $2,500 per pound.
Flavor and uses
The flavor of saffron is wholly unique and difficult to pin down. The spice has a distinctly earthy and floral scent and imparts a subtle sweetness with hints of bitterness when added to dishes. While saffron can be added to recipes as is, to get the most flavor out of this spice it is best to first steep it in liquid. Adding saffron to about ¼ cup of water or milk will help to release its vivid colors and flavors. Dispersing the saffron in liquid also helps to evenly distribute the spice throughout the dish.
Saffron is a versatile spice used in cuisines all over the world and can be found in Indian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean cuisines, to name a few. Most famously, saffron is a crucial ingredient in French bouillabaisse, Indian biryani and Spanish paella. If looking to incorporate this vibrant spice into your next dinner, look for saffron in the spice aisle of your local grocery store.