What is the world's most expensive spice by weight?
And the answer: Saffron.
Costing thousands per pound, saffron is by far the world's most expensive spice. It comes from the stigma of the saffron crocus flower, which blooms for just six weeks each year. Harvesting and drying the stigma is labor-intensive and time consuming.
Saffron is a difficult spice to work with. In the saffron crocus flowers, there are three red stigmas – each is an individual piece of saffron. As such, the yield for farming saffron is incredibly low. Just one pound of saffron requires 170,000 flowers.
Saffron's short blooming period is challenged by further time constraints. Harsh midday sunlight can break down the chemical structure in saffron, while humidity levels can affect yield. Some saffron farmers only harvest in the early morning as a result.
90% of the world's saffron is grown in arid fields in Iran, though the plant can be grown throughout the world. It is resistant to cold temperatures, so even places like the American state of Vermont have tried their hand at growing Saffron.
Over centuries, saffron has proven useful in many situations. Most pertinently, it is a delicious additive to meals across the world. Saffron is the source of paella's signature color and flavor, as the plant breaks down into a flavorful golden dye. It is also great in broths, breads and marinades to add flavor.
Learn more about the world's most expensive spice below.