SAFFRON, THE COSTLIEST SPICE: DRYING AND QUALITY, SUPPLY AND PRICE

D. Basker
Saffron is by far the costliest of spices, with a history spanning millennia. The plant is sterile, incapable of producing seed, and must be propagated vegetatively year after year in order to be sustained. The flowers, which grow only a few centimetres above the ground, must be picked on blossoming and without damaging the leaves; the red stigmas are removed from the flowers and when dried constitute the spice of commerce.

The temperature and time required for drying the stigmas are interrelated. Incomplete drying results in total loss of product due to decomposition and could growth. The dried and uncontaminated product is marketable, but may not be of the highest quality, as determined by colouring power, odour and taste.

Spain is the principal producer of saffron for world markets. The retail price for properly-packed, internationally-known brands of high-quality produce has been fairly steady in recent years, at perhaps $6 to $8 per gram. Fluctuations in the wholesale price, at around one-tenth of the retail price, illustrate the elasticity of supply and demand.

Basker, D. (1993). SAFFRON, THE COSTLIEST SPICE: DRYING AND QUALITY, SUPPLY AND PRICE. Acta Hortic. 344, 86-97
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.1993.344.10
https://doi.org/10.17660/ActaHortic.1993.344.10
344_10
86-97

Acta Horticulturae