Saffron is harvested from Crocus sativus, a flower is better known as the “saffron crocus.” Each bloom from this crocus produces three yellow styles, each of which ends with a crimson-red stigma. The combination of golden style and crimson stigma constitute what we know as a saffron thread. These threads are plucked by hand and dried, resulting in a fragrant, beautiful spice that is prized the world over. Once a flower blooms, it must be harvested that same day, as it begins to wilt almost immediately. Since each flower contains only three delicate stigmas, it takes upwards of 50,000 flowers to yield one pound of dried saffron.
Some will note its sweet, honey-like flavor, while others find it earthy and musky. Yet others are able to detect a balance of the two. Saffron is prized as much for its color as its flavor, imparting a rich, golden hue onto recipes ranging from the saffron risotto to a variety of curries, to classic French bouillabaisse. It can even be used for desserts, such as pudding, cakes, and sweetened rice. A little goes a long way. For most dishes, you will only need 1-3 saffron threads to get the desired effect.