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Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world — with 1 pound (450 grams) costing between 500 and 5,000 U.S. dollars.

What Is Saffron?

Saffron, golden-coloured, pungent stigmas (pollen-bearing structures) of the autumn crocus (Crocus sativus), which are dried and used as a spice to flavour foods and as a dye to colour foods and other products. Saffron has a strong, exotic aroma and a bitter taste and is used to colour and flavour many Mediterranean and Asian dishes, particularly rice and fish, and English, Scandinavian, and Balkan breads. It is an important ingredient in bouillabaisse soup.

Saffron is cultivated chiefly in Iran but is also grown in Spain, France, Italy (on the lower spurs of the Apennines Range), and parts of India. A labour-intensive crop, the three stigmas are handpicked from each flower, spread on trays, and dried over charcoal fires for use as a food flavouring and colouring. A pound (0.45 kilogram) of saffron represents 75,000 blossoms. Saffron contains 0.5 to 1 percent essential oil, the principal component of which is picrocrocin. The colouring matter is crocin.


Saffron threads will hold their maximum flavor for up to six months if you store them in an airtight container and keep the container in a cool, dark place. Like other herbs and spices, it's sensitive to light, so wrap the packet in foil to protect it even more. It won't spoil, but it will lose more and more of its flavor as it ages. If you are buying ground saffron, it should be stored in a similar fashion but you should use it as quickly as possible as it will already have lost some of its potency.

Saffron Health Benefits

Saffron has been used as a tool in natural medicine for thousands of years. Packed with a range of antioxidants like crocetin, safranal, and crocin, saffron may help protect the body from harmful free radicals that cause a number of ailments and diseases. Saffron can be consumed directly or via saffron extract, tea, or a saffron supplement.

In addition to the many bodily health benefits of saffron, saffron is also good for the mind. Both crocin and crocetin contain brain-boosting properties that protect the health of brain cells and improve the cognition of adults.

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