Sunday, September 19, 2004


A saffron crocus in bloom.

Saffron, as any cook knows, is the world's most expensive spice, costing as much as several thousand dollars a pound. In the spice section at your local market, saffron is almost always sold by the pinch, which is a good thing because that's really all you ever need to use in any one recipe that calls for it, anyway.

Saffron's expensive nature is because of the manner in which the spice is collected. The spice actually consists of just the dried stamens of the saffron crocus, which are those three long read "filaments" extending from the center of the flower. These are gathered by hand and dried to form the spice. Since each crocus only produces three stamens, it takes literally thousands of saffron crocuses just to produce enough stamens to yield a single kilogram of saffron spice.

Obviously, saffron is not a regularly-used ingredient in my kitchen.

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