Saffron (Crocus sativus) is the world’s most valuable spice, by weight. Each saffron corm produces a maximum of one flower a year and each flower contains three stigma, called threads. The flowers must be gathered by hand the morning flowers are opening and the delicate stigma carefully removed before they are damaged by the sun. It takes around 150,000 flowers to produce 1kg of dry saffron, so the process is very labour intensive. Saffron grows in a dry Mediterranean climate and Iran is the world’s largest producer. Countries including Morocco and Greece also produce and export saffron. Saffron adds colour and a delicate but complex flavour to dishes such as Spanish paella. Do not confuse this plant with meadow saffron (Colchicum autumnale), which is poisonous and has no antidote.
See how much you know about saffron by completing our fun saffron crossword. You may have to research some of the answers!