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What Makes Saffron So Expensive?

Saffron is THE spice – the world’s most expensive spice. The current going rate as of this posting tops out at about $3,800 per (American) pound. For those of us who prefer the metric, there are roughly 453 grams to every American pound. So the math is $8.40 per gram of saffron. When you consider the current price of gold, you begin to get a sense of how much people are paying to add saffron to their recipes.

The aroma and flavour of saffron is unique and difficult to describe. It is floral, but not sweet. The buds develop to complete flowers in the fall. Each flower has three threadlike thing in the centre and these must be removed by hand and then let to carefully dry. Additionally, more than 80,000 crocus flowers must be grown, cared for, hand-harvested and processed to make just one pound of saffron.

dried saffron spice


It is grown around the Mediterranean, in the Middle East and in India, but when we think of saffron, there is one predominate question that inevitably comes to mind… Just why is IT so expensive? This is because Saffron is an extremely rare and labor-intensive crop, that has to be grown, cultivated, and uprooted at precisely the right time.

Saffon’s history reflects that it was first mentioned some 1500 years ago in an Assyrian text that was discussing botanical findings. This goes to show you that science may discover things, but it is the cooks and chefs of the world (domestic and otherwise) who practically apply what we know. Though native to Greece, it is Iran that produces the lion’s share of the spice, accounting for 93% of the world’s supply.

Fans of Saffron, what is your favourite dish to add this wonder spice?

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