Saffron is expensive. Very expensive. There are two main reasons that make the price soar. It is highly labour-intensive. Experts pick about 3500 flowers an hour. Each flower has three treads. One kilo of pure saffron requires close to half a million threads!
With those prices, adulteration is almost natural. Ever since the Middle Ages people sell cheap substitutes.
The largest producer is by far Iran. With over 90 percent they dominate the market. The remaining 10 percent is divided between India, Greece, Spain and Italy.
Being extremely labour intensive, prices vary. Depending on how much workers are paid. European and American saffron can cost up to 10 times as much as their Indian or Persian counterparts.
3. Be careful
As we mentioned above, adulteration is always around the corner. Whereas threads are harder to forge, powder isn’t.
Adventures may go out and look for the wild flowers. Worst case scenario: naked ladies. Or Colchico in Latin. Very similar but highly poisonous. It is though easily recognizable since it has six threads. Not three.
You may pick the wild crocus longiflorus. It is harmless. But not real saffron.
4. How to use saffron
You may grind your saffron in powder. Better do that just before using it. Use mortar and pestle. This avoids precious waste.
Soak the necessary threads in tepid water. An hour before using them.
Add them to liquid rich foods. In soups or stews for example.
5. Saffron in the Sicilian cuisine
Arancine. The rice is colored and flavored with saffron.
Piacentinu cheese from Enna. Beautiful yellow, tasty and fragrant.
Aeolean pasta. Capers, olives, tomato. Add some ‘zafferano’ to the water the pasta boiled in. A winner.