Home » Food » What is the Most Expensive Spice in the World?

What is the Most Expensive Spice in the World?

Authentic Paella, Bouillabaisse, and the Biryani all have one ingredient in common. But did you know that their common ingredient was once more expensive than gold?

Saffron comes from the Crocus sativus plant. These plants cannot grow in the wild hence must be cultivated by humans. Saffron is expensive because it takes about 1,000 flowers to produce just one ounce.

What is Saffron?

Saffron is a golden-colored stigma or pollen-bearing structure used as a cooking spice or as a cloth dye. It comes from the Crocus sativus plant, which is mainly cultivated in Iran. But can also be grown in other regions like Spain, France, Italy, and certain parts of India.

Saffron is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean, specifically in Cilicia, which was in Asia Minor. The flower made its way to Spain when the Arabs cultivated it around the year 961. It was even mentioned in an English healing manual in the 10th century but was later lost, only to be reintroduced in the region by the Crusaders.

Saffron has a strong and exotic aroma. It has a bitter taste, and it is usually used to color Mediterranean and Asian dishes. It is also used in English, Scandinavian, and Balkan bread and is an essential ingredient in bouillabaisse, which originates from France.

In ancient times, stigmas of saffron were used to create a golden-colored, water-soluble dye used for royal garments in different cultures. It was also made the official color of priests’ robe shortly after Buddha’s death. Saffron was even mentioned in the Song of Solomon due to its sweet smell. The spice was even used as perfume by the Greeks and Romans, becoming associated with the hetairai, or professional Greek courtesans. (Source: Britannica)

Why is Saffron Expensive?

This spice is the most expensive in the world because harvesting it is labor-intensive. There are only three stigmata in each flower, and since only a tiny part of the flower is used, harvesters would need to pick many flowers to produce the desired amount. On average, it will take 75,000 saffron flowers to make one pound of spice. (Source: Britannica)

To add to this, saffron only blooms over six weeks between late September to early December. The spice also has to be picked early morning to prevent the sunlight from breaking its chemical structure and has to be picked manually. (Source: Insider)

Saffron is considered the most expensive spice, usually costing anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 per pound, compared to the white truffle’s $3,600 per pound price tag. (Source: Fantastic Facts)

Health Benefits of Saffron

It is believed that saffron possesses some health benefits. Here are some advantages when you consume this expensive herb. (Source: Healthline)

A Powerful Oxidant

Saffron contains an impressive variety of plant compounds that act as antioxidants, such as crocin, crocetin, safranal, and kaempferol, all of which help protect your cells against free radicals and oxidative stress. (Source: Healthline)

May Improve Mood and Depressive Symptoms

Studies found that taking 30 mg of saffron daily was just as effective as Fluoxetine, Imipramine, and Citalopram, conventional treatments for depression. (Source: Healthline)

May Reduce Premenstrual Syndrome

Saffron may help alleviate premenstrual syndrome by reducing anxiety. It also helps lower cortisol levels. (Source: Healthline)

May Aid in Weight Loss

Though uncertain of how saffron helps in weight loss, scientists theorize that regular intake of the spice elevates one’s mood, reducing one’s desire to snack. (Source: Healthline)

Leave a Comment