There are lots of familiar spices out there that include flavors like ginger, lavender, and others. Chances are that you don’t think they’re going to be expensive, right?
There is one spice that is the most expensive spice in the world. You’ve probably even heard of it – saffron.
More than just a color, saffron has been around for more than three thousand years and is a prized spice around the world.
What Makes Saffron So Expensive?
For starters, to make saffron, you start by pulling the mature flowers for several hours per day. Why so long?
If you can believe it, a single pound of pure dried saffron takes 75,000 flowers. When they grow all of 6 inches above the ground, the work is backbreaking to say the least.
How Do You Know It’s Real?
People that sell saffron know that there are many ways to fake saffron. Historically, saffron has been imitated with corn silk, dyed petals, and even soluble plastics.
Real saffron can easily be confused with impostors, but there are ways to be sure that it’s genuine.
While real saffron has a sweeter smell, it will never taste sweet, so be on the lookout for that. You can also put a strand in water. If the color fades to white, it’s fake. If it stays a crimson color, then it is pure saffron.
You can also rub a piece of saffron between your fingers, and if it disintegrates, it isn’t real. If it dissolves in water, it isn’t real.
What is Saffron Worth?
You can pay as much as $10,000 USD for a single pound of genuine saffron depending on its source, and it would not be unheard of at all.
Each pound comes from around 20 hours of labor. Hence the reason for being time-consuming and labor intensive. It’s also important to note that saffron requires individual intervention by the field workers to grow and pollinate.
How Do You Use Saffron?
Saffron is a star ingredient in curry as it gets mixed with turmeric, coriander, cumin, and other spices like chili pepper, too.
Some fantastic dishes also incorporate saffron like paella and saffron cake just to name a couple. Risotto is another dish that works remarkably well for saffron
Saffron was also once used in makeup, as well as in dying leathers and fabrics.
Where Can Saffron be Found?
Most saffron crops come from Iran, Italy, Greece, and Afghanistan. You’ll also find smaller crops in Switzerland, Argentina, and New Zealand.
Saffron is made from the blue flowering crocus stigma. Each must be handpicked and taken apart to create every single gram of saffron. A little goes a long way, so you don’t need much to impart the flavor that the spice is known for.
Other Expensive Spices
While saffron is the most expensive spice, there are many other costly spices that you might be interested in acquiring, too.
Authentic vanilla can fetch quite the price at upwards of $200 USD per pound of vanilla bean pods. The vanilla bean pod comes from Mexico and Madagascar.
Much like saffron, vanilla harvesting is also labor intensive and requires hand pollination.
Cardamom can also be quite pricey compared to other spices, although comparatively speaking, it only has a price tag of around $30 USD for a single pound.
Native to Guatemala, these seed pods are manually harvested and create a notable spiced aroma found in foods, coffees, and teas like chai tea.
Cloves are native to Madagascar, Zanzibar, the Indonesian Maluku Islands, and India. Cloves typically cost upwards of $10 per pound and have been used for centuries in many different capacities.
They are found in many different dishes including curries, pies, and tarts. Clove oil is also considered to be antiseptic and is used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine.
Cinnamon has long held a reputation as a healing spice with medicinal properties. It is native to Sri Lanka and is used in cooking and teas.
Additionally, cinnamon oil is also found in perfumes as well as aromatherapy.
The Most Expensive Spice in the World
Saffron carries the title of most expensive spice for a good reason. Between its innate harvesting difficulties and required human intervention to simply exist, the price point makes sense.
Just remember, if you decide to purchase saffron, make sure you test it so you know if you’ve got the real deal. If you do, you won’t be disappointed.