Lisa Munniksma

freelance writing, editing, farming, travel

The most expensive food in Sardinia

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The BBC reports there are 250,000 of these small, red stigmas in a half-kilo of saffron. The flowers have to be hand-harvested. No kidding this is the most expensive spice in the world!

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.

8 Comments

  1. Very cool! I had no idea that’s where saffron came from. Do these flowers grow in the U.S.?

    • I didn’t realize saffron was grown in Italy, either, but it’s actually grown a lot here. I’ve always thought of it as a Middle East spice. You can grow it in the U.S., too! I’ve read conflicting info, but it appears to be a perennial in zones 5 to 9.

    • Yes. In fact, I know a cancer patient in PA that grows them because there are studies that it has an anti-cancer medicinal value.

  2. Risotto allo zafferano is a typical dish from Northern Italy, but I don’t think it’s incredibly expensive.. how much saffron do you need for a serving? 1g is about 15 euros, so I guess it’s cut with other stuff just like heroin.

  3. how very interesting, I hope you enjoy the spice with all your foods,

  4. Thanks for mentioned our lovely island Sardinia!

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