What does Saffron Taste Like?
Saffron has a subtly earthy & grassy flavor & aroma, yet sweet, similar to floral & honey. No spice is more special than saffron. With an unmistakable scent and flavor, saffron straddles sweet and savory effortlessly, and it bestows a striking golden hue on every dish it graces. A few strands of saffron will transform a long list of dishes, adding a mysterious allure to everything from risottos and milk puddings to rich curries and fish stews.
Our favorite way to find out what saffron tastes like? Leave a few strands of saffron threads in a glass of warm milk with a pinch of sugar and then taste it. Otherwise, add just 1-2 threads to a pot of rice- it will flavor the whole dish.
What is Saffron?
Crocus sativus L., otherwise known as saffron, is one of the most expensive spices in the world. As a rule of thumb, the deeper the color of saffron threads, the better the quality. Deep red with orange tips is considered to be the best. Real saffron threads are fine and evenly sized, with a thin yellow tendril on one end and what looks like a flute on the other side. The color of saffron threads is a deep red. The highest quality saffron threads have the most minimal yellow stem and the highest amount of crocin, one of saffron's key essential oils.
Why is Saffron So Expensive?
At a price of $3,000 to $8,000 per pound, saffron is by far the most expensive food on earth. Saffron is infamously expensive, but as just a pinch of good saffron will enliven a dish, it won't break the bank.
First, an explanation of saffron's expensive price. Saffron threads are the stamens of the crocus, a high-maintenance flower with difficult, generally low yields. Each flower blooms only one week each year and produces 3-4 stamens, which must be picked by hand, then dried, making the entire process extremely labor intensive and, thus, expensive.
Where is Saffron Grown?
Saffron is native to Southern Europe and is cultivated in Spain, Iran, Greece, Turkey, Afghanistan and certain Indian states. Saffron is often used in the production of cosmetics, pharmaceutics and textile-dye industries, as well as (our favorite) cooking.
Saffron Recipes & How to Use
The best way to use saffron threads is to steep them in a bit of warm water, stock, milk or white wine for a few minutes. This will help draw out the color and to ensure that it's evenly distributed throughout the dish. Then, add the liquid to the dish towards the end of cooking. To really keep the saffron flavor pronounced, we like to keep other spices to a minimum. A small pinch in a large pot of food gives a dish a richer, fuller, and much more aromatic flavor. We particularly love adding saffron to teas and rice dishes.
Where to Buy Saffron Threads
As a general rule, you want to avoid powdered saffron: it generally disappoints and stick to whole saffron threads, so you can easily identify the color. Get the maximum from your saffron threads by warming them very gently for a few seconds, pounding them lightly and then infusing them in liquid for a minute or two to help release their glorious color and aroma. Purchase co-op sourced saffron threads from Afghanistan here.