Iran has the status of world saffron champion, accounting for about 90% of the global saffron production. Saffron, widely referred to as "red gold," is a spice derived from the dried stigma of the saffron crocus flower. This precious spice is praised for its incomparable quality, fragrance, and superb coloring properties. It takes from 140,000 to 500,000 flowers to produce about 2 lbs (1 kg) of saffron, which is why the market price of this precious spice reaches roughly from $500 to $5,000 per pound ($1,000 to $10,000 per kg).
Annually, starting in late October and well into mid-November, the country of Iran is busy picking the saffron flowers in their fields. The peak saffron harvest season is usually in early November. For the best quality of the yield, tender flowers have to be collected by sunrise. That's why farmers often walk across the purple-blooming fields as early as 4 am.
The bags full of flowers are then taken to refineries, and within 24 hours (the life of a collected flower), saffron filaments are separated and dried. Only then is the extensive production process finished, and saffron is ready to conquer the world.
Major saffron producers are located to the east of Iran. If you are curious to see how saffron grows and observe the saffron harvest, head to the cities in Razavi Khorasan Province: Gonabad, Taybad, Torbat Heydariyeh, Khaf, and Ghayen. In case you are a foodie and prefer to visit a big market with endless spice varieties including saffron, then head to Mashhad.
When is the ideal period for collecting saffron flowers?
The saffron harvest starts in late October and reaches its peak in early November. Farmers start picking the flowers at 4 am, ensuring they select only tender ones to take to refineries. Timing is vital in maintaining the flavor and color that saffron is renowned for. Visitors can join locals to witness the process of collecting and producing the precious spice, a learning experience that reveals why saffron is in such high demand worldwide. Show more
How affordable is saffron produced in Iran compared to other countries?
Iran produces a significant portion of the world's saffron, making the spice quite affordable within its borders, with prices ranging between $500 to $5,000 per pound ($1,000 to $10,000 per kg). This is unsurprising, given Iran's position as the largest producer of saffron globally, and the top quality of its saffron harvest. Thus, visitors can get high-grade saffron at very reasonable prices, outside Iran, while paying a premium for the premium-quality spice. Show more
Which cities in Iran have a significant saffron production capacity?
Iran accounts for 90% of the world's saffron production, with the bustling Razavi Khorasan Province being the major contributor. Gonabad, Taybad, Torbat Heydariyeh, Khaf, and Ghayen are the cities with the highest saffron production. Indeed, many farmers in this region measure their wealth in kilograms of saffron, visitors have the opportunity to experience Iranian culture and meet locals through the intricate process of saffron production. Show more
How many flowers does it take to produce two pounds of saffron filaments?
Producing 2 pounds (1 kg) of saffron filaments requires between 140,000 and 500,000 delicate crimson flowers, with the early morning being the prime period for harvesting them. Within 24 hours, the harvested flowers are delivered to a refinery where the saffron threads get separated and dried. Along with considerable patience to cultivate suitable land, farmers require substantial water during the summer. In the winter and spring, they anticipate their harvests for the year to come. Show more
What other spices can visitors buy from the Mashhad market?
Mashhad is the largest non-oil export center in Iran, situated at the country's borders, with a variety of notable offerings that include high-quality saffron. The market, in addition to fresh saffron, boasts a wide range of other spices that include cardamom, fennel, cumin, and more. Beyond offering multiple spice options, the market is also ideal for quality local sweets and dried fruit, making it a one-stop-shop for souvenir shopping and personal use. Show more