Saffron: The Priciest Spice

Words by
Georgina Reid
Images by
Peter Whyte
| March 24, 2015

Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. It’s more expensive, per gram, than gold. It also has medicinal qualities though I’m not sure who could afford such an extravagant treatment!

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Did you know that those burnt orange filaments in the tiny boxes in expensive food shops are actually the stigmas of a Crocus plant. Crocus sativus, to be exact. Crocus is a bulb – it looks like a simpler version of a tulip, sort of… google it! It’s native to Greece or western Asia and has been cultivated for over 3500 years. Most of the worlds saffron grows in a belt from Spain in the west to India in the east.

Regarding it’s medical qualities – some studies have suggested it could be used to treat depression, has the potential to help slow macular degeneration and even help relieve the symptoms of PMS. And it’s tasty! A win, win, huh. If only it were more affordable, I hear you say.

There is a strong case for the high cost of saffron, and its this:  Each one of the saffron threads in the centre of the flower is super delicate and has to be harvested by hand. It takes 150 flowers to yield just one gram of saffron!

So, whilst all sorts of agricultural processes get mechanised, saffron still requires a gentle human hand for harvesting. Kinda nice really…. and perhaps puts it’s high price into perspective.

Peter Whyte, a photographer from Tasmania took these images. They are stunning. Below is The Planthunters first ever foray into video (we made a Youtube channel especially for this story). If you have a thing for time-lapse photography, click on the vid below and you will be happy. And if you don’t, click on the vid anyway, and you will be happy too. Promise.

PS. Peter took these images at Tas-Saff, a saffron farm in Tasmania. And, the image above received a merit award in the Graphis Photography Annual 2015, in New York.

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