If you’ve ever eaten paella or bouillabaisse, you probably recall the orange-yellow hue and the nutty, sweet spice in the dish. That flavor, which might be hard to pinpoint, was Spanish saffron.
Spanish saffron is one of the most distinct looking spices, and it has an equally distinct, complex flavor. With its sharp-yet-sweet fragrance, deep red color, and wiry appearance, it’s stunning. And this type of saffron is also one of the most expensive spices in the world per ounce.
Spanish Saffron Origins
Saffron has an interesting history and harvesting process, and Spanish saffron – or azafran in Spanish – has a variety of uses and wellness properties (more on that below).
Saffron comes from the plant Crocus sativus. Each strand of saffron is actually the dried center stigma of the crocus flower. And each flower is pollinated and picked by hand.
Harvesting saffron is an extremely labor-intensive process. This results in high costs for the high-quality strands of this spice. For example, just one pound of good quality Spanish saffron can cost $1,500 or more.1
Ancient Saffron History
Saffron has a strong historical presence that dates back to Greco-Roman times. It is mentioned in Greek mythology as a coveted item that sailors traveled the world to find. Saffron is even credited as one of Cleopatra’s favorite indulgences to bathe in and use as a beauty product.2-4
Where to Buy Saffron
As it turns out, the Middle East is the leader in modern-day saffron production. The most coveted kind of Iranian saffron is called Super Negin, which is identified by the three-tipped, equally-colored red thread ends.5
Due to trade sanctions in Iran on spices, much of Iran’s saffron is exported through other countries, like Spain. But what about true Spanish saffron? Spain’s saffron is produced in the La Mancha region, and it’s equally high in quality. Like Iranian saffron, it’s grown and harvested by hand.
When you see either version of this spice sold in the store, you can trust that you are buying excellent quality spices.
Health Benefits of Spanish Saffron
Now, the azafran spice will take your recipes to the next level, but did you know this spice also has health benefits? As it turns out, saffron’s uses date back to ancient Egyptian times.
- Aid in improving mood6
- Help patients recovering from serious illnesses7
Long-rumored to be an aphrodisiac, Spanish saffron might also help support healthy sexual function. Although there is little medical research to support this, old wives tales and healers suggest otherwise.8
Whether you choose to use Spanish saffron from La Mancha, or Iranian Super Negin saffron, this saffron spice is a delicious addition to many rice dishes, soups, and stews.
This spice, with its exciting history and an increasingly global reach, is sure to elevate your meals and impress your friends!
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