Popular meals such as Spanish Paella, Italian Risotto, and Indian Curry all have a special ingredient: Saffron. It’s a savory spice that adds a unique, smokey flavor to these dishes that allow your taste buds to sing. This bright red spice not only is the stuff of gods, but it’s also the most expensive spice in the world—capping out at $1,500 a pound! Crazy!

But why? What makes this spice cost so much? Glad you asked.

It all has to do with how it’s grown.

Pictured here is the Saffron Crocus.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

While a stunning flower, the only part harvested for saffron are the red stigmata. For every one pound of herb, 75,000 flowers are picked by hand! Being the stigmata is so delicate, the flower cannot be harvested by machines. Only the gentle touch of a human.

But that’s not all! About 90-93% of the worlds saffron is grown in Iran, followed by Azerbaijan, Morocco, and Italy. Why? Because of those countries’ locations. These flowers are very high maintenance. They only bloom once per year and must be in the right conditions, including full sun and rich soil that is well-drained.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Another fun fact about this delicious spice is its health benefits. It’s been proven that it helps alleviate major depressive disorders, has cancer-fighting agents, relieves PMS symptoms, aids in weight loss and is even considered an aphrodisiac!

These are all great things, but I’m sure the cost might deter you from trying it….except here’s the kicker: You only need to use small amounts. This spice goes a long, long way! A tiny pinch muddled in good olive oil will be enough to cover a rice dish for the whole family.

Preferably, you should buy the saffron threads rather than the pre-ground sort. In some cases, disreputable manufacturers will “cut” paprika or turmeric into their supply.

And that’s big no-no if you what to capture the essence of this prima donna kitchen spice.