The 1 Mediterranean Spice That's Completely Worth the High Price

POPSUGAR Photography | Susannah Chen
POPSUGAR Photography | Susannah Chen

"A gram of saffron is like a gram of gold," I overheard while visiting winery and organic farm Fattoria Poggio Alloro in Tuscany, Italy. If you've ever passed by the Mediterranean spice in the store and cringed at the high price, you know that statement is not far off. I've always shied away from buying it for recipes that call for a few threads of saffron, like paella and risotto, but after learning some background about the flavorful spice at that Italian farm, I've changed the way I think about it and cook with it. Here are the three simple reasons it's so expensive — and worth it.

  1. The weather. Growing saffron is not easy. It thrives in extreme temperatures, both cold and hot, so every variation in the climate can affect its growth. It grows well in areas that have cold Winters and warm, dry Summers.
  2. The harvest. Saffron grows inside crocus flowers, and it has to be handpicked — a very difficult, time-consuming task.
  3. The scarcity. For one gram of saffron, you need almost 400 flowers! Long, deep-red threads have the most flavor, too, so chances that every flower delivers a perfect product are slim. Now that I understand the work that goes into that small jar at the grocery store, I appreciate it a lot more. Plus, an ounce will last you a long time, so it's 100 percent worth the buy.
Flickr user ps_sahana