why is saffron so expensive? Part 1
Why is saffron so expensive? according to experts
Saffron is the most precious spice in the world. It originated in Iran and now this wonderful country produces over 90% of the world’s saffron. This red spice has so many health benefits and has been used in the medical industry for centuries. However, there are many other spices out there that are also used in the same ways and have so many benefits.
So, what makes saffron so special that it costs as much as gold? Yes; they call it “red gold” for a reason. Many even claim that it costs more than gold by weight. But why is saffron so expensive?
In this article, we’ll lay out all you need to know about saffron production and what happens in the process that makes it the most expensive spice in the world. Let’s dive in.
Does saffron cost more than gold?
In short, no. Maybe sometime in the past saffron cost more than gold by weight. But now, it costs much less than gold. a gram of saffron will cost around 8 to 15 USD while gold will cost more than 50 USD per gram.
So, maybe it costs more than gold in some periods in history and that’s why they called it “Red Gold” for centuries. However, it’s still the most expensive food property in the world. It currently costs more than famous wasabi, caviar, truffles, or even vanilla beans. All of this, brings us back to the question: why is saffron so expensive?
Saffron uses throughout history
Rumer has it that the main reason behind saffron’s cost is how it has been used throughout history. They say ancient empires used this precious spice to dye their clothes, chefs used it as a unique signature for their foods, and many other even used it to add a wonderful scent to their perfumes.
So, as you can see, the spice is not just a food property. It can be used in any industry and for any purposes. Kings added it to their baths to heal their wounder bodies and souls after battles. Queens drank saffron infused beverages to stay young and beautiful.
It all lead people to believe that saffron is expensive because of its ancient history and uncountable benefits. Although these facts seem so convincing, they are not the reason behind saffron price; at least not exactly.
Why is saffron so expensive exactly?
As you may have heard, saffron is a rare spice. But if you surf on the internet, you can see there are thousands of saffron fields in Iran and around the world. So, why it is known to be a rare spice?
Well, to answer that you should know how saffron is harvested. Crocus sativus or saffron crocus is a purple flower that contains saffron stigmas. However, each flower only contains three red stigmas in the center of it. So, farmers would need to collect so many flowers just to get a little bit of saffron.
But, that’s not all! Saffron crocus is so delicate that you cannot use any machine or tool to harvest and collect them. Which means all the process, from planting and irrigating to harvesting and separating the stigmas are done by hand. Imagine how hard it could be to produce a small amount of saffron.
On the other hand, this delicate spice is very sensitive to sunlight. So, after blooming, the farmers only have few days to collect the crops or else the entire field will be damaged. And the process of collecting can only be done few hours before sunrise. After that, the flowers will close up until the next morning. And farmers only have few days to collect the whole crops, otherwise the strands will be useless after being exposed to sunlight.
How much time does it take to collect a pound of saffron?
So, now you know the answer to “why is saffron so expensive?”
The labor-intensive work is the main reason behind saffron price. But how much labor are we talking about exactly? There are around 15 to 20 thousand strands of saffron in each pound which takes approximately 75,000 flowers. It means about 370 to 470 hours of labor! And all must be harvested in only a few days!
Not to mention how hard it is to grow high-quality saffron. A slight and sudden change in the temperature or irrigation can ruin the whole crops. Moreover, a whole village must cooperate to pluck each saffron flower and stigma by hand when the blooming days come.
Where can I find cheap saffron?
One of the most frequent asked questions is that where can we find saffron for cheaper prices. Well, knowing the answer to “why is saffron so expensive?” can help you answer this question as well.
There is no such thing as cheap saffron. If you find one, you can be sure that its not saffron or it has something mixed up in it. Good quality saffron costs a lot. In addition to that, no one would sell this precious spice for cheap prices, knowing the labor it took to be produced.
So, if you really want to enjoy the flavor and many health benefits of saffron, you need to pay the price. But it surely will be worthwhile.
Where can I find the best quality saffron?
Well, saffron mainly comes from Iran, India, Spain, and Greece. However, over 90% of the world’s saffron is exported from Iran. And as we mentioned earlier, Iran is also the birthplace of saffron crocus. So, if you are looking for the best quality saffron in the world with the most reasonable prices, you can find them in this colorful country.
Iran has the perfect temperature and soil for saffron to grow and flourish. It’s been harvested around the country for centuries so the farmers know their jobs pretty well. Also, if you don’t know how to use saffron or what to make with it, you can use Persian food recipes as an example. You won’t believe the variety of foods and drinks you can make with this delicate spice.
When people ask, why is saffron so expensive, after they see its price, they have no idea how hard it is to harvest just a small amount of this reddish spice. Each person needs to bend over and over again for more than 6 hours a day to pluck each saffron flower from the ground. Not to mention the works from planting to blooming, all of which must be done by hand.
However, it all become worthwhile once you get to know all the benefits saffron brings to different industries. From what we eat, wear, use, or smell can have a signature of this mysterious spice.