Is saffron really more expensive than gold?
You may have heard before that saffron is more expensive than gold, and you’re probably wondering if this is true, or just a wild exaggeration. The answer is: Yes, saffron really is more expensive than gold and also the most expensive spice in the world. Here, we’ll look at why saffron is the world's most legendary, costly spice.
Why is saffron so expensive?
Saffron is a unique spice that has a very distinct flavor, color and aroma but it’s the harvesting of this special spice that makes it so expensive.
The saffron cultivation and harvesting process requires a lot of physical labor, from collecting the saffron from the flowers in the field to packing the threads up to getting them ready to be sold and used across the world.
Harvesting saffron requires skilled workers who collect the stigma from saffron crocus flowers by hand and separate the stigma from the flower. Saffron threads are dehydrated stigmas (the female part of the flower) and these first have to be separated from the flowers, before you can dry them. By doing this task by hand, you don’t damage the rest of the plants. Starting to see why we pay so much for this delicious and unique spice?
Each saffron crocus flower only has three of these red stigmas, which are the saffron threads, so the yield per flower is really low. To get your harvest, you need lots of workers hand picking the stigma from the flowers for a very small amount of saffron. Round of applause for these guys am I right?
Another aspect which adds to the expense of this rare spice is the fact that the beautiful purple saffron crocus flowers only bloom over a period of 6 weeks in autumn meaning the time for harvest is limited as well. It’s also best to harvest early in the morning to protect the quality of the saffron from sunlight and humidity.
Where does saffron grow?
It is believed that saffron originated and was first cultivated in Greece. However, as much as 90% of the world’s saffron is grown in Iran due to its diverse climate and fertile soil, but it’s also grown in other countries including Afghanistan, India, Morocco and even in the U.S. and in European countries as well. You might think you’d need lots of sunshine and warm weather to grow saffron, but the saffron crocus flowers are actually very resistant to cold weather. The flowers need to be kept out of the coldest winter conditions but can be kept inside in a climate-controlled greenhouse during the colder seasons.
The high saffron price tag – is it worth it?
Yes, absolutely. The actual saffron is such a small part of the saffron crocus flower that it requires careful and skilled workers to be harvested and this can only be done over a small part of the year. The price tag represents the skilled and time-consuming work required to harvest saffron very well.
Also, saffron is a very unique spice that provides a signature flavor, color and scent that can’t be copied with other spices or flavorings. Saffron is also a spice that has many health benefits, including reducing the symptoms of depression. Check out some of these health benefits here!
To tell the truth, Saffron really is more expensive than gold but if you love the taste and the health benefits as much as we do, it's definitely worth the price. You only need a tiny bit of saffron for each recipe too as the flavor is so rich and intense so a small amount will last you longer than you’d think. Check out our list of places where you can find high quality saffron.