Pampore, near Srinagar, is the only place in the world besides Spain where saffron is grown.Saffron is the stigma of the fall flowering crocus. Peek inside most any flower, and you will see three threadlike filaments. These are stigma - but only in the saffron crocus are these stigma worth thousands of dollars per pound. Saffron is so valuable because it is a very labor intensive crop, and only 5-7 pounds of saffron can be produced from each acre of land. This makes saffron the most expensive spice by weight - it always has been - but by use saffron isn't that expensive, because a little goes a long way. A single gram of saffron easily translates into golden color and fragrant flavor in 10 recipes of saffron rice for four, several batches of bread, or a couple of big pots of paella. At Penzeys, we sell three different grades of Saffron:
Kashmir "Mogra Cream" Indian Saffron is the world's finest saffron. The dark red color and long perfect strands are as beautiful as they are colorful and flavorful. Kashmir saffron is awfully tough to obtain, which makes it higher in price, but Kashmir Mogra Cream Saffron is truly wonderful.
Spanish Coupé Saffron is the top grade of the Spanish Saffron crop. Extra hand labor is used to remove every bit of the yellow saffron style material, leaving 100% beautiful pure red saffron threads -hence the name: coupé means "to cut", as in cutting off all the yellow bits. Spanish Coupé Saffron is a truly excellent crop, especially nice for the traditional Spanish dishes.
Spanish Superior Saffron is the most widely available saffron and is a very good crop. Spanish Superior Saffron has a bit of the yellow style material left attached to some of the saffron stigmas (see photo), so it is not quite as strong as Spanish Coupé or Kashmir Indian Saffron.
Saffron contains 450-500 saffron stigmas to the gram. The stigma are also called threads, strings, pieces or strands. 1 gram equals 2 tsp. whole, 1 teaspoon crumbled or 1/2 teaspoon powdered. Don't buy pre-powdered saffron because it loses flavor quickly and is usually cut with turmeric or something else.
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