Saffron in a bowl Amboora

Explore Saffron: Culinary Red Gold


Saffron, derived from the Crocus sativus flower, known as the 'saffron crocus', is the world's most expensive spice. This distinction comes from the painstaking process of collecting and drying the flower's vivid crimson stigmas and styles, or threads.

Origins of Saffron

Saffron is thought to have originated in Iran, with some theories suggesting certain Greek islands as its birthplace. It was later introduced to China, India, and the Middle East, before spreading across Mediterranean Europe. Today, Iran, Greece, Morocco, India, Spain, and Italy are leading producers.

Why is Saffron So Expensive?

The harvest of saffron crocus flowers occurs in autumn. These blooms must be handpicked at dawn to prevent damage from sunlight. Each flower yields just three stigmas, necessitating 15,000-16,000 flowers to produce 1 kilogram of saffron. This labour-intensive process translates to 400-500 hours of work, accounting for saffron's high cost.

Saffron in Morocco

Morocco's culture is renowned for its vibrant colours, which extend to clothing, art, and cuisine. In Moroccan souks, saffron is particularly prized, adding a semi-sweet, slightly bitter flavour and rich crimson hue to dishes. It's also used in dyes and medicinal treatments.

Health Benefits and Scientific Research

Saffron is celebrated not only for its flavour but also for its health benefits, supported by scientific research. It's known to improve mood, enhance libido, and offer mental health support, thanks to its antioxidant properties.

Culinary Tips and Techniques

When cooking with saffron, a little goes a long way. To fully release its colour and aroma:

  • Steep a few threads in hot water before adding to dishes.

  • Crush threads and mix them directly into recipes for a more intense flavour.

Iconic Moroccan Dishes with Saffron

Saffron is indispensable in Moroccan cuisine, featuring in:

  • Moroccan mint tea, where a few threads add depth and aroma.

  • Tagines, where its flavour is pivotal.

  • Breads and cookies, where crushed threads offer a unique taste.

Buying and Storing Saffron

Selecting high-quality saffron involves looking for vibrant red threads, a sign of freshness and potency. Store it in a cool, dark place to preserve its flavour and aroma.

Saffron's role in Moroccan culture extends beyond its culinary use, symbolising the nation's rich heritage and the meticulous care embedded in its traditions. Have you ever experienced its unique flavour or incorporated it into your cooking?