Saffron is the stigma of Crocus sativus, a flowering plant in the crocus family. Saffron, the world’s most expensive spice, is costly because more than 225,000 stigmas must be hand picked to produce one pound. In its pure form, saffron is a mass of compressed, threadlike, dark orange strands.
Saffron is native to the Mediterranean. Today it is cultivated primarily in Spain.
Traditional Ethnic Uses
Saffron is used in French bouillabaisse, Spanish paella, Milanese risotto, and many Middle Eastern dishes.
Taste and Aroma Description
Saffron has a spicy, pungent, and bitter flavor with a sharp and penetrating odor.
History/Region of Origin
Ancient Greeks and Romans scattered Saffron to perfume public baths. The 13th century Crusaders brought Saffron from Asia to Europe, where it was used as a dye and condiment. In Asia, Saffron was a symbol of hospitality. In India, people used Saffron to mark themselves as members of a wealthy caste.
Store in cool, dark, dry places.
A Few Ideas to Get You Started
A little pinch goes a long way with Saffron. Use it in Italian risottos, Spanish chicken and rice, French seafood stews and Scandinavian sweet breads.