Afghani saffron, also known as “red gold” is considered one of the world’s most legendary spices. It is one of the most precious spices in the world, and it originates from a flower called crocus sativus. It is believed that saffron was first cultivated in ancient Greece, but today, the spice is generally cultivated in Afghanistan, Iran, India, Greece, and Morocco. Some is found in the US, but it’s mostly an imported spice.
When it comes to taste, saffron is very subtle and fragrant. It is slightly sweet and has a very luxurious flavor – it’s almost tricky to describe but it’s instantly recognizable in any dish. You’ll easily know when you taste saffron!
So, how exactly do you use saffron? Easy! You can simply grind 2 teaspoons of saffron threads along with course salt or a sugar cube with your mortar and pestle. This will draw out the most possible flavor. After this is done, and about 1/4th cup of warm water and let it cool. This will create a beautiful and vibrant elixir that you can use in buttery saffron rice, paella, or even fancy desserts such as saffron-rose water brittle.
Saffron is much pricier compared to other spices because it’s hard to harvest. Each flower only produces three threads (or stigmas) of saffron, and it only blooms for one week each year! The saffron is harvested by hand in the morning when the flowers are still closed – this protects the delicate stigmas inside. Saffron should be completely red when purchased, it shouldn’t include any yellow stigmas, and the smell will almost be like a sweet hay.
Your saffron should be stored in a cool, dark, and dry place, and you can even store it in the freezer for up to a year! Saffron water can be stored in an air-tight container in your fridge for 2-3 weeks.