If there is something that characterizes a paella, it is its peculiar flavor and orange color created by a spice called saffron. This spice is so exclusive that it is considered one of the most expensive in the world; you can buy a kilo of saffron for around $5,000. For this reason, not all cooks can afford to add this exquisite condiment, called by many “red gold.”
Both of us are coming from areas of Spain (Albacete and Teruel) where we have grown since we were little with our families harvesting saffron. The reason that makes this spice so expensive is because it is very difficult to collect. It comes from the stigmas of a plant known as ‘crocus sativus’ and to obtain it, the stigmas must be what it is called “esbrinar” one by one and done manually.
I recall going at the first light of the day around October to pick up theses flowers when they were opened so it was easier to take the stigmas out later on. The flowers are really low almost on the ground and they can just been picked up by hand. Not really good for your back… And after a good brunch it comes the fun bit where I remember gathering all together and chatting for hours and hours with the whole family including my uncle, aunt and cousins taking out one by one the stigmas of each flower. I miss that part of joining the family toguether 🙂 what nowadays is harder with all our busy calendars. Then, the last step is to roasted them in the oven before storing.
Many flowers are necessary to obtain a considerable quantity. For example, for a kilo of saffron you need about 150 thousand flowers of this variety.
Saffron is considered a superfood because of its medically researched rich nutrients, and powerful antioxidants. It has endless health benefits such as its cancer fighting properties, mood boosting, reduces PMS symptoms, aids in weight loss, lowers blood sugar levels and improve eyesight.
So make sure you use Saffron to your next Paella to get an authentic a healthy one!