The most expensive food item in Sardinia isn’t bottarga, horse steak or the finest handmade pasta. It’s saffron, which also happens to be the most expensive spice in the world. Today, I found out why.
Just before I arrived at this farm in Sardinia, the farmers planted Crocus sativus–the flower from which saffron is derived–in a small garden bed. Three days ago, small, green sprouts emerged. Two days ago, specks of purple popped up. Yesterday, full crocus flowers bloomed. And today, we harvested the delicate, fragrant flowers.
It took us all of two minutes to harvest this garden bed, yet producing the flowers on a scale large enough to make economic sense would be incredibly labor intensive–hence saffron’s incredible price of as much as €7,000 per kilogram or more than $4,000 per pound.
We plucked each of the two dozen flowers off their stems, just below the flower pedals and set them on a tray to dry. When they’re dry, we’ll remove the red stigmas–the saffron–from inside the blossom and enjoy them in salads, risottos, stews and desserts.