Last updated on May 8th, 2023 at 11:12 am
Saffron is a spice with a sweet, earthy, and almost floral flavor. Its flavor profile is considered to be quite complex, and it can add depth to many dishes.
Saffron was traditionally found throughout the Middle East and the Mediterranean, but it is now utilized in dishes around the world.
This spice also has many health benefits. It is often linked to improved digestion and weight loss. Some studies have also shown that saffron could boost your mood.
However, because of where it comes from and how it’s harvested, saffron is one of the most expensive spices available.
How much is 1 pound of saffron worth?
One of saffron’s nicknames is red gold, and this is because the spice often has a value greater than true gold.
Prices for saffron vary depending on where it was grown and what the current market is like.
One pound of saffron, however, can cost between $500 and $4,500. Prices vary greatly, and one of the biggest contributors to the high price is where the saffron originated.
Most saffron is not sold by the pound. Instead, chefs and home cooks can buy a small tin of saffron.
These tins usually contain about 1 ounce of saffron, and they generally cost around $50.
How is saffron harvested?
Saffron is actually the small stigma of a particular variety of crocus flowers. Each flower produces just three stigmas. These stigmas need to be plucked by hand.
They are then dried for about 12 hours before they are packaged.
Harvesting and drying saffron stigmas is incredibly labor intensive. To produce just 1 kilogram of saffron, which is a little more than 2 pounds, harvesters must work through between 15,000 and 25,000 crocus flowers.
This is equal to a field of flowers about the size of a football field. When you consider the harvesting and drying times, that 1 kilogram of dried saffron can take between 370 and 470 hours to make.
Why is saffron so expensive?
Saffron is expensive simply because of how labor-intensive it is to produce. There are no mechanical methods available for harvesting saffron, so it must be done completely by hand.
Saffron growers also need to grow vast fields of crocus flowers to produce saffron. Each crocus bulb produces only one flower, and each small flower only has three stigmas.
Saffron prices can go up if saffron crops are damaged due to weather or other unpredictable forces.
If the crop has not been good, the price of saffron can increase drastically.
It’s also important to remember that, although each flower can grow three stigmas, some of these stigmas might be damaged by weather or animals, or they simply may not grow correctly.
Saffron also has a season. The flowers can be harvested from late October to early November in most parts of the world.
However, because saffron is dried and can be stored for long periods, buying saffron at different times of the year shouldn’t affect the price too much.
Can I grow my own saffron?
Crocus flowers can be grown in most parts of the United States as well as throughout North and South America, Europe, and Asia, so it’s not impossible to grow your own flowers to make your own saffron.
However, many people find the prosses of plucking the stigmas too labor intensive. Each stigma must be removed carefully.
The flowers only bloom for about three weeks, though, so saffron farmers must work relatively quickly, depending on the size of their crop.
If you want to grow your own saffron, you will first need to purchase saffron crocus bulbs. The saffron crocus is a hybrid that contains three chromosomes.
This means that it is most likely a human creation, and it cannot reproduce by seed. Instead, more plants are created through cormlets. Cormlets are small bulbs that grow around the original, main bulb.
As the plant ages, more cormlets appear, and these can be pulled away from the main bulb and planted separately.
The fact that these plants do not reproduce via seed also makes raising them more laborious, which increases the overall price of saffron.
It’s important to divide the cormlets from the main bulbs every four to five years. Only divide the bulbs when the main plant has gone dormant.
Once the cormlets have been separated from the main plant, store them in a cool, dry place, and plant them the following spring.
When it comes to growing saffron crocuses, the bulbs require soil that is rich in nutrients and drains well. Saffron crocuses do best in areas where there are well-defined seasons.
Saffron needs a warm, dry summer for growth and eventual blooms. A cold winter will encourage the plant to go dormant, which can lead to better health and more growth in the spring.
These plants also require frequent watering.