Has Anybody Synthesized Saffron (Spice)?

Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice. Gathering it is very labor intensive, so i always wondered why food chemists haven’t been able to synthesize it.
Synthetic vanilla (vanillin) is quite common-so, can a acceptable version of saffron be made?

Saffron is a far more complex blend of actives ingredients, it would be analogous to synthesising cocoa.

Vanilla is predominantly a single chemical, though you can’t mistake a dish made with vanilla beans for one made with vanilla extract.

As to a cheaper version, you can use “poor mans saffron” i.e. tumeric

pt, you’re spot on about the complexity of saffron’s flavour vs. vanilla, but this:

Turmeric (note spelling) gives a simulacrum of saffron’s colour, but has a *completely *different flavour to saffron.

Concur completely, MrDibble.

As a side note, you can buy a cheap substance online that is billed as ‘saffron’, but it’s really a whole bunch of turmeric mixed with a bit of saffron. Short version: never buy powdered saffron. If it’s less than about $60/oz, it’s not good stuff. Good news: an ounce can last you for years, if properly stored.

My daughter’s name is Saffron. Does that count?

It could also be (or usually is, around here), safflower. Wikipedia link. It also goes by the name “Mexican saffron” or “American saffron.”

But can a pinching her flavor an entire pan full of paella?

I’ve bought some very cheap saffron (both powder and threads) from Cost Plus World Market that if it was cut with tumeric, it fooled me. The flavor was only saffron, and that’s all that was listed on the label.

A friend brought me back from Bali a sandwich-sized ziplock bag’s worth of saffron threads. Twelve months later it had broken itself down into about 1 teaspoonful of powder.

For the… risotto, it’s already there :smiley:

How much saffron for what cost? The low-end average wholesale price of true saffron is $30/ounce. Retail is going to be at least $60/oz, more usually $100/oz.

edit: The stuff from Bali you got was probably safflower. Read here.

Spices (all of them, not just saffron) are either incredibly expensive or incredibly cheap, depending on how you look at them. A single serving adds a lot more flavor for a lot less cost than any of the “major” ingredients in a recipe.

Interesting. I’ve had a one ounce bag of pure Spanish saffron that I’ve been dipping into for several years and it’s still stems and still potent. I keep in in a ziploc, sealed in the can it came in and away from any heat source. A quick search shows that the price has increased dramatically, so it’s probably been longer than I thought. I paid about $50 for it, and I see that an ounce is now well over $100.

Suggested source for anyone interested in genuine products from Spain is La Tienda, but they’re pretty pricey IMO. Amazon has tins for about $130.

Listen to a lot of Donovan, did you?

I once read that saffron was hugely popular in medieval times…it was even used to flavor desserts and candies. Today, I only use it to make paella, and sometimes to flavor a seafood stew (zarzuela de morisco).
I have found that the local Indian groceries carry saffron at reasonable prices (threads)-I never buy ground saffron.

It very well could have been. It had a light saffron flavor, but not all that strong.

Safflower doesn’t really taste like much, whereas with saffron, just a couple threads can scent and color a whole dish. Among the names I’ve listed, if you see Goya or Latin American products labeled azafran, they’re most likely safflower. Also, it’s used a bit in the Philipines, so if you visit Asian stores and see something called kasubha, it’s safflower, not saffron. The main difference in their appearance is saffron looks like threads (since it’s the stigma of the plant), while safflower has a more a leafy appearance (as it is made from the petals of a plant). Given the fact that it went to powder after a year, I’m pretty certain it’s safflower–saffron should last at least three years or so if stored properly.

I seem to remember that the Polo family fortune was founded on saffron, though much diversified over time.

They were mad for it. I think I go through about a half-ounce of saffron a year in the SCA, and that doesn’t include our biggest feast that I buy saffron just for.
Still, there’s nothing like chicken endor’d (glazed with egg yolk and saffron - yes, the Star Wars geeks all laugh), or lovely saffron cake for 12th Night.

Are there grades of saffron threads? I have some that I bought in Pittsburgh’s strip district. I’ve used them a few times and they did color the food, but didn’t add any flavor that I could discern.