Saffron is one of the rarest, most precious, and most expensive spices in the world. Even though saffron is used in numerous dishes around the world, its usage originated in Iran. Still today, saffron plays an indispensable role in Persian cuisine and culture. In this article, we gathered some facts about saffron and its quality grades. Furthermore, we created an overview of the best Iranian saffron brands available online.
What is saffron?
Saffron are the stigmas of the Saffron crocus, or Crocus sativus, plant. In the current day, Iran produces over 90% of the world production of saffron. The price of saffron depends on the saffron grade. Overall, saffron is the most expensive spice in the world and can reach prices of up to USD 6,000 per kg. However, cooking with saffron is not necessarily expensive. Due to the strong aromas, most recipes only require a minor amount of saffron.
Next to Iran, other saffron producing countries are Greece, Morocco, Spain and India. However, in most of these countries, the quality of saffron is much lower, resulting in cheaper but inferior saffron than Persian saffron.
If we compare Iranian saffron versus Spanish saffron, Iranian saffron usually has a much higher quality than Spanish saffron. In the production of Spanish saffron, La Mancha saffron (lower grade Spanish saffron) and Portuguese saffron are blended with some high-quality Iranian saffron. Therefore, Spanish saffron is often adulterated and of lower quality than Iranian saffron.
Persian saffron grades
Iranian saffron comes into different quality levels. They all come from the same flower Crocus sativus. However, the stigma of the plant is divided into different quality sections. At its tip, the stigma splits into three separate parts that are completely red and the highest-quality part of the saffron.
If these three strands are harvested as one, the saffron is called Super Negin or Negin. They are both a grade 1 saffron and include the three intensely red parts of the stigma of the Crocus sativus plant as one piece.
The second highest quality is called Sargol. Sargol also includes only the intense red parts of the stigma but the two strands don’t necessarily need to be harvested in one piece. Therefore, sargol has the same taste in quality as negin and is also grade 1 saffron.
Pushal saffron also includes parts of the less colored and less aromatic style of the stigma. It is considered grade 2 saffron. Khooshe saffron is the lowest quality saffron as it mostly consists of the lower parts of the stigma only. That part is not very aromatic and very little colored. We do not recommend buying pushal or khooshe saffron.