Saffron, botanical name Crocus Sativus, is the most expensive spice in the world. Derived from the dried stigmas of the Purple Saffron Crocus, it takes anything from 70,000 to 250,000 flowers to make one pound of saffron. Moreover, the flowers have to be individually hand-picked in the autumn when fully open.
The aroma is often described by connoisseurs as reminiscent of metallic honey with grassy or hay-like notes, while its taste has also been noted as hay-like and somewhat bitter.
Medicinally, saffron has a long history as part of traditional healing; modern medicine has also discovered saffron as having anti-carcinogenic (cancer-suppressing), anti-mutagenic (mutation-preventing), immune-modulating, and antioxidant-like properties. Most saffron is grown in a belt of land ranging from the Mediterranean in the west to Kashmir in the east. Annually, around 300 tons are produced worldwide.