Saffron: Iran’s Red Gold

On September 3, 2013, Iran’s Fars News Service reported that Iran has exported a total sum of 39,557 kilograms of saffron worth $53.5 million in the first five months of the current year.

Islamic Republic of Iran produces nearly 96% of the world’s saffron and has the highest quality and density among the other saffron producing countries in the world, such as, Indian occupied Kashmir, Greece, Morocco, Spain, Italy, Azerbaijan and Turkey.

In Iran, saffron is cultivated over 124,000 acres. At the moment, Iran produces 250 tons of the red gold annually and has set a goal 500 tons by 2021. Iran exports saffron to over 40 foreign countries.

It takes around 140,000 to 150,000 flowers to make 1 kilo (2.2 pounds) of saffron. One pound of saffron could fetch between $1,800 to $2,000 in the world market.

Saffron (botanical name crocus sativus), is the most expensive spice in the world. Derived from the dried stigmas of the purple saffron crocus, it takes anything from 70,000 to 250,000 flowers to make one pound of saffron. Moreover, the flowers have to be individually hand-picked in the autumn when fully open. Watch a video below.

Saffron has been used as herbal medicine and an ingredient in a number of popular food dishes around the globe even before the time of King Solomon. Queen Cleopatra used to wash her face with a saffron infusion to enhance her beauty and prevent blemishes, and to make herself more attractive.

Saffron is even mentioned in both Jewish and Christian Bible among the most sought-after aromas. “Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices,” hymns a love verse in the Song of Solomon.

Historically, Arab traders in Muslim Spain introduced saffron to Europeans around 900 CE. The Christian Crusaders after destroying 900-year-old Muslim rule in Spain, took saffron bulbs to Italy, France and Germany.


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