The most expensive spice in the world! Saffron costs ten times more than vanilla, and fifty times more than cardamom. The reason for this high cost, is that it takes over 14,000 tiny stigmas to produce one ounce of saffron. Saffron is believed to be native to the Middle East and first cultivated in Asia Minor. It was used in foods, wines, perfumes, as a dye, and for medicinal purposes. The spice is the dried yellow to orange stigma of a crocus's purple flower. It has a slightly bitter, honey like flavor with a strong pungent aroma. Use in bouillabaisse, risotto, paella, baked goods, sauces, soups, rice dishes, curries or with poultry, fish and shellfish, cream, tomatoes, and lamb. Saffron releases its color and flavor in liquids better than fats, so be sure to soak the threads in hot liquid such as stock, water, or wine for 20 minutes before using in your dish. Store saffron in a cool dry place and away from direct light to lengthen its shelf life.