Saffron is believed to be native to the Mediterranean, Asia Minor, and Iran, although Spain, France, and Italy are also now primary cultivators of the spice. The spice we think of when we hear “saffron” is actually only a small part of the plant itself. Saffron (Crocus sativus) is a purple flower. What we use for that distinctive yellow color, sweet-herb smell, and bitter taste is actually the stigma (plural stigmata)—the pollen-germinating part—at the end of the red pistil, the female sex organ of the plant.
There are only three stigmata in each saffron flower. Once the stigmata (and their red pistils) have been separated from the plant, they are dried to preserve their color and flavor. Since such a small part of the flower is used, it takes 75,000 saffron flowers to make one pound of saffron spice. The small amount of saffron spice per plant, along with the fact that harvesting must be done manually, leads to saffron’s being majorly expensive.
Read the original article on britannica.com.
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