Saffron – even the name conjures up images of exotic, luxury, exquisite fragrance, rarity, and culinary adventures.
There is no absolute certainty where saffron – the plant commonly known as the saffron crocus – was first cultivated, but it is believed to be either Greece or Iran.
Currently, saffron is grown in a belt that encompasses a region in Spain, in the west, to Kashmir in India, in the east. Iran is the largest producer and exporter of saffron.
One reason saffron is expensive because each plant has only three threads, or stigmas, and it grows for just a week every year. About 150,000 plants, or about 450,000 stigmas, are needed to produce a kilo of saffron and this work is done manually. Hence the high price good quality saffron fetches.
During my trip to Dubai, I visited the Grand Souk – which means grand market or bazaar – and found a store specializing in saffron. The salesperson gave me tips on how to extract the color and the flavors from the saffron threads.