BOXBERG, GERMANY - OCTOBER 02: View over blooming meadow saffron (Colchicum autumnale) on the landscape park Nochten to the cooling towers of Boxberg power station near Boxberg, Germany, on October 2, 2021. (Photo by Frank Hoensch/Getty Images)
The Reason Saffron Is So Expensive
By Kimberley Laws
Insider reveals that in 2020 a kilogram of saffron could cost as much as $10,000, lumping the spice in with other high-end ingredients such as caviar and Wagyu beef. The saffron business is so lucrative that counterfeit and adulterated versions of the spice have flooded the market, and there are multiple factors that lead to its high cost.
To collect a single pound of the spice, approximately 75,000 flowers must be harvested, which requires much labor. According to Insider, it takes so many flowers because each saffron crocus flower has only "three red stigmas" that make up the saffron.
A postdoctoral research associate at the University of Vermont told Insider that the flowers only bloom for six weeks in the fall and must be harvested in the early morning to avoid sunlight and humidity, two factors that can impact the saffron's quality. With such small but costly crops, farmers must ask for an exorbitant price to make a living.
Turmeric and safflower are two popular alternatives for saffron, even though they’ll never replicate its unique taste completely. Turmeric is the more potent of the two, so you only need ½ a teaspoon in place of a pinch of saffron, but you can use safflower at a 1:1 ratio, although it sadly has little-to-no taste.