Saffron is the most expensive spice on Earth. This is because of the labour involved in growing and harvesting the spice. Saffron is the red-yellow stigma of the crocus flower and must be hand-picked during short annual flowering seasons. Each flower produces only three stigmas, so it takes approximately 150 flowers to yield just one gram of dry saffron threads. Luckily, very little saffron is needed for cooking. In fact, too much can make food bitter.
Imitation saffron is rampant in markets around the world (especially in Turkey), and even makes its way into Canadian products and stores. In particular, beware of safflower petals, which look a little like saffron, but are nearly flavourless. Any time you see a big quantity of “saffron” (more than a couple grams) for an overly reasonable price, it’s almost certainly safflower.
Fresh saffron has a distinctive earthy smell and flavour and imparts a bright orange colour to food. Saffron is a characteristic ingredient for a number of traditional dishes like bouillabaisse and paella, as well as many risottos. Try adding a few threads to basmati rice with Indian dishes to add a bit of flavour and turn your rice a beautiful golden colour. When adding saffron to a dish, add to a bit of liquid first to draw out the colour, or grind to a powder if no liquid is being used. Adding early in the cooking process gives more colour, adding late gives more flavour.
We carry saffron from two places: La Mancha, Spain (which is considered by many to grow the world’s finest saffron) and Iran (Iranian saffron is prized for its incredible colour). Our Spanish saffron comes in two grades: Mancha and Coupe. Mancha is a premium grade exhibiting a rich red colour and beautiful flavour. Coupe saffron is the very best Spanish saffron. It has been selected by a Spanish governing body as the finest bright-red saffron with the most intense flavour and aroma. All our saffron is sold in one-gram tins.