HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >

Saffron from Iran

heylids Oct 5, 2013 06:09 PM

I received some saffron from a friend who came back from Iran.
I have never seen saffron like this and am wondering if anyone has and why it is so different then the threads of saffron I have purchased.

Thx...great saffron recipes are very welcome!!!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. hill food RE: heylids Oct 5, 2013 06:18 PM

    I have no advice outside of the usuals, but I wish I had a friend bringing back saffron from Iran. it looks amazing - that color is so vivid.

    1. r
      robt5265 RE: heylids Oct 5, 2013 08:41 PM

      I'm surprised it wasn't confiscated by customs. Bringing anything from Iran into the U.S. is illegal I thought.

      16 Replies
      1. re: robt5265
        heylids RE: robt5265 Oct 5, 2013 10:06 PM

        We are in Canada

        1. re: heylids
          lagatta RE: heylids Oct 8, 2013 02:27 PM

          I often see Iranian saffron here in Montréal. It is a darker red than Spanish saffron.

        2. re: robt5265
          rose water RE: robt5265 Oct 7, 2013 08:31 AM

          Though the sanctions are extensive (and brutal), you can bring stuff from Iran to the US if it's not for commercial purposes. And given that we've been the beneficiary of tons of Iranian saffron over the years, I'd say that it's much rusty redder and much thicker than what you see here. And the smell is heavenly.

          1. re: robt5265
            MikeG RE: robt5265 Oct 7, 2013 08:39 AM

            Even for commercial trade, I believe some of the sanctions were eased a number of years back primarily for agricultural products, but I wasn't paying close attention. I do know that Iranian saffron has been openly displayed at Iranian markets for a number of years now. Before that, one saw it occasionally but usually "behind the counter" where it wasn't obvious unless you knew what you were looking for.

            1. re: MikeG
              c oliver RE: MikeG Oct 7, 2013 09:00 AM

              It's like that at the Spice Market in Istanbul but I didn't get the impression that they were hiding it but rather it was expensive enough and small package so they kept it back.

              1. re: c oliver
                MikeG RE: c oliver Oct 8, 2013 05:25 AM

                Well, in Istanbul, it wouldn't have been contraband. :) In the stores I'm thinking of, it wasn't simply being kept away from shoplifting hands, but basically tucked half out of sight, while Spanish and other saffrons would be obvious.

                1. re: MikeG
                  c oliver RE: MikeG Oct 8, 2013 08:03 AM

                  I was curious how that works. If I buy a banned product to take to the US am *I* then breaking the law or at least subject to Customs confiscation. Those vendors are also quite bold about selling 'alleged' Russian caviar. Out of curiosity I told one that I couldn't bring it into the US. He said that he could wrap it in such a way (vacuum sealed, no doubt) that it would be no problem. I passed.

                  1. re: c oliver
                    Delucacheesemonger RE: c oliver Oct 8, 2013 08:10 AM

                    The caviar in Istanbul, the real stuff is usually Iranian, there is virtually almost no Russian left and what there is is unconsciously expensive. At the spice market there was a lot of pasteurized caviar, feh IMHO, regardless of origin.
                    l feel you were wise to pass.

                    With the exception of my wonderful urfa biber, which took me 11 stands to find a good one, l felt the spice market was very sleazy and was most uncomfortable there. Not as bad as Grand Bazaar though.

                    1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                      c oliver RE: Delucacheesemonger Oct 8, 2013 08:17 AM

                      I found one spice vendor who I liked and returned to on our second trip. He wasn't out their hawking his goods. Other than that I bought nothing else except some really cute ceramic bowls. I didn't bargain as I felt they were worth the asking price. Had I been staying in an apartment I might have bought some of the food products being sold on that outside aisle of the market. I spent about five minutes in the Grand Bazaar and that was about 4.5 minutes too long.

                      Thanks for the info about the caviar. I haven't eaten enough (dagnabbit!) to be knowledgeable enough.

                      1. re: c oliver
                        Delucacheesemonger RE: c oliver Oct 8, 2013 08:47 AM

                        The market on the outside of the Spice Market was the best market in Turkey for me, no bargaining, and really good and unusual stuff.
                        We ate off that market very often.

                      2. re: Delucacheesemonger
                        Veggo RE: Delucacheesemonger Oct 8, 2013 08:21 AM

                        I have a jar of Romanoff Iranian Caspian beluga, but it's a bit old.

                        1. re: Veggo
                          hill food RE: Veggo Oct 8, 2013 07:22 PM

                          Veggo - break it out! well on a special night with just a few others, be ready to take a whiff and say "oh no thank you" but I'd bet, like a wine, a brief hour of 'breathing' might bring it around.

                          1. re: hill food
                            c oliver RE: hill food Oct 8, 2013 08:29 PM

                            He's talking about something about 30 y.o. :(

                            1. re: c oliver
                              hill food RE: c oliver Oct 8, 2013 09:51 PM

                              I'd still try it. go wait in the car.

                              1. re: hill food
                                c oliver RE: hill food Oct 8, 2013 09:55 PM

                                Gladly :)

                            2. re: hill food
                              Veggo RE: hill food Oct 9, 2013 05:49 AM

                              It's 40 years old -Christmas 1973. I never had that right special occasion. I lead a dull life.

              2. The Professor RE: heylids Oct 6, 2013 01:21 AM

                I've heard that a lot of the saffron coming from Spain is actually artificially colored, low quality stuff. Don't know how true ithat is, but people I know who have used Iranian saffron say that it is markedly better and nothing can compare to it.

                1. Delucacheesemonger RE: heylids Oct 6, 2013 03:37 AM

                  The exec chef in a Manhattan resto, has been buying his spices from an Iranian for years. Besides the saffron, the fennel, cardamom, and coriander and others are awesome, he has been giving me bits for years and there is no comparison to what l had been using before.

                  1. PesachBenSchlomo RE: heylids Oct 6, 2013 06:44 AM


                    1. chefj RE: heylids Oct 6, 2013 11:08 AM

                      I am wondering if it is actually Saffron and not Safflower. It is hard to tell from the Picture but those Threads look to thick and heavy to be Saffron. Does it smell of Saffron?

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: chefj
                        Delucacheesemonger RE: chefj Oct 6, 2013 12:05 PM

                        Safflower unless dyed will be a mix of red and yellow, not red alone.

                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                          chefj RE: Delucacheesemonger Oct 6, 2013 06:42 PM

                          Yes, and if your selling Safflower as Saffron I am sure that is what you would do.
                          Those Threads look much too chunky to be Crocus Stigmas

                        2. re: chefj
                          c oliver RE: chefj Oct 6, 2013 07:14 PM

                          I thought I'd read (but not sure!) that if it's solid red then it's probably not Iranian.

                          1. re: c oliver
                            Sam Salmon RE: c oliver Oct 6, 2013 09:41 PM

                            Always interesting to see how jealous US Americans are of other countries/their culinary products & traditions.

                            Iranians have been growing Saffron since time immemorial and have re-introduced it in to Afghanistan to help their impoverished neighbours.


                            This has had a negative effect on Iranian prices but money isn't everything to everyone.

                            1. re: Sam Salmon
                              chefj RE: Sam Salmon Oct 8, 2013 01:19 PM

                              What do you mean? Your post seems to have nothing to do with the discussion you are responding to?

                              1. re: chefj
                                JMF RE: chefj Oct 8, 2013 02:33 PM

                                I agree!

                                1. re: chefj
                                  hill food RE: chefj Oct 8, 2013 07:24 PM

                                  I get Sam, the market goes where the profit margin is and the easy trade routes.

                                  1. re: hill food
                                    c oliver RE: hill food Oct 8, 2013 08:30 PM

                                    But what about that whole "jealous US American" part? I didn't get it in relation to my post and still don't.

                                    1. re: c oliver
                                      hill food RE: c oliver Oct 8, 2013 09:55 PM

                                      the jealous part is that saffron (and other products) are insanely expensive in the US that surely COULD be cultivated domestically, yet are not...

                                      well that's my jealousy anyway.

                                      1. re: hill food
                                        Delucacheesemonger RE: hill food Oct 8, 2013 11:37 PM

                                        The expense in saffron is the labor involved in picking the stamen from the crocus flower bulb. It takes @ 75000 stamen for a pound of dried saffron and takes the picker @ 20 hours for this task, from Wikipedia.
                                        With USA salaries it would probably be four times higher if grown on our soil.

                                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                                          hill food RE: Delucacheesemonger Oct 9, 2013 01:41 AM

                                          thanks, I didn't have the figures at hand but yours sound right (or even soft!)

                          2. JMF RE: heylids Oct 7, 2013 09:17 AM

                            Those pics aren't in focus enough to be sure, but that doesn't look like real saffron. It looks very much like some fake saffron I saw being sold at the tourist booth at the airport in Zanzibar for dirt cheap.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: JMF
                              Veggo RE: JMF Oct 7, 2013 02:36 PM

                              I was previously deleted here for suggesting that Iran is infamous for counterfeiting valuable items, but I caution buyers to beware. Maybe I'll be zapped again, but I did my civic duty.

                            2. Beach Chick RE: heylids Oct 9, 2013 10:21 AM

                              2 of my fave things from Iran...saffron and Iranian caviar.

                              Show Hidden Posts