Crocus sativus

The Red-Gold Mystery

  • Saffron is the world's most expensive spice, and is valued at a market price point ranging from $750 to $75,000 per kilogram (retail price).
  • Preparations of culinary, medicinal and textile based products from various parts of the saffron flower is diverse and founded upon 3,500+ years-worth of rich traditional uses from all over the world but is also contemporarily innovated by novel extraction methods.
  • Saffron is considered to be a superfood, and specialty, shoulder, low-input, and cash-crop.
  • Saffron is a low-input agricultural crop that requires relatively minimal input of water, synthetic chemical fertilizers or pesticides, and maintenance, in contrast to tomatoes.
  • The primary culinary use of saffron is sourced from the dried red stigma filaments that are only present for harvest when the autumn-blooming plant flowers.
  • Saffron flower harvesting occurs in autumn — this is typically a three to four week period that occurs in October and November in the Northern Hemisphere.
  • Ancient Greco-Romans used saffron as an aromatic spice in Greek courts and theatres, while infused in to the water of Roman baths.
  • There are three predominate chemical constituents that compose the quality of saffron, which are crocin (color/apocarotenoid), picrocrocin (taste/terpenoid) and safranal (aroma/terpenoid).
  • It has been estimated that 85,000 farmers are employed in the Khorasan province of Iran to grow saffron, in contrast to the 16.8 million workers needed for the whole production cycle annually (see map below).
  • It has been estimated that in order to produce one kg of saffron, between 158,000-300,000 flowers are required — however, another estimation of Spanish saffron gauged 173,250 flowers required for one kg.
  • Sixty-plus different adulterants have been identified in adulterated saffron samples globally.

Last Updated: January 29, 2024

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