Zafran is the king of spices. It’s the most expensive spice in the world, but it adds a fantastic flavor to any dish. The first question that comes to mind when using saffron is: “What is this stuff?” But there are some interesting facts about Zafran that you might not know. So let’s explore this playful little flower and see why it’s such a famous food among chefs.
Zafran is the king of spices.
Zafran is the king of spices, and it doesn’t come cheap. The most expensive spice in the world can cost up to $250 per ounce or $1,000 per pound—and that’s if you’re buying it from a reputable source and not settling for Chinese knockoffs.
But there’s something special about saffron: It has a distinct flavor and aroma, helping foods achieve a richer taste that’s hard to find outside of Spain or Iran (the two largest producers).
Zafran is expensive.
Zafran is the world’s most expensive spice. The Indian government hasn’t lost sight of this fact, which has historically mandated that all saffron sold in India be of a particular grade and purity. It has led to a thriving black market for cheap imports—which also happens to be illegal.
Zafran is expensive for two main reasons: labor costs and rarity. Unlike other spices, it takes 100,000 flowers to produce one pound of saffron; this makes harvesting the plant extremely labor-intensive compared with other crops like coffee or tea that grow on trees or bushes (and thus require less human intervention). The second reason that Zafran is so costly is? Small production numbers: there aren’t many places where you can grow it successfully outside of Spain and Iran (another reason Spain had better access than anyone else).
How to use Zafran in your cooking
To get the most out of your Zafran, you must use it in various ways. Several dishes work well with saffron:
- Soups and stews
- Meat dishes (e.g., chicken or fish)
- Desserts, such as cakes and pastries
The possibilities are endless! Remember to be careful when using the spice — you don’t want too much flavor overpowering your dish.
How to store Zafran
Zafran should store in a cool, dark place. If you have the option of refrigerating it, do so. Saffron packed in an airtight container and stored correctly can last up to five years.
Because of its strong flavor, Zafran is often used sparingly to add color and aroma to dishes without overpowering them with taste. When storing your saffron, it’s also important not to let it come into contact with moisture or light; these elements can cause the delicate threads inside each flower head (called stigma) to turn black over time. Saffron is best kept in airtight containers away from heat sources like ovens or stoves.
If your home gets warm during summer months when your windows are left open all day long, consider storing your Zafrans outside rather than inside your house so they won’t become overly dry before their shelf life has expired!
Be careful with Zafran because it can overpower other flavors.
As you experiment with Zafran, keep a few things in mind. First, saffron is potent stuff. A little goes a long way. Don’t be afraid to add it sparingly; 1/8 teaspoon of ground Zafran per cup of food is plenty for most dishes (1/4 teaspoon if the word contains meat). If you’re unsure how much your recipe needs, start small and taste as you go along. Second, because it’s so expensive and hard to find fresh saffron threads at the grocery store or local farmer’s market, most of what we eat today comes from Iran. Many low-cost alternatives will give similar results without breaking the bank (see below). Third: Buy organic when possible! A man may have cultivated Zafran since ancient times, but its cultivation can still impact wildlife negatively depending on where it’s grown (see sidebar)
With all the recent attention that Zafran has received, it’s easy to forget that the spice is quite old. It’s been around since ancient times but was never as popular as today. Saffron is still an excellent ingredient, and its unique flavor will add a touch of elegance to any dish.
However, you need to be especially careful when using this spice because if misused or in excess, it can overwhelm other flavors. Make sure you know your recipe before adding too much of this potent substance!