You may have heard that most of the world’s saffron comes from Iran (over 90%). But if you look online or in your grocery store, you can find saffron from other sources: Indian, North African, Greek, and even US saffron can be found.
So is there any difference between Persian saffron vs other types of saffron? Why does Iran produce so much of the world’s saffron? And is there any difference between the various saffrons coming out of Iran? That’s what we’ll talk about in this article.
Like fine wine
Have you ever tried a fine wine from Kansas? No? How about Bali?
We kid, of course. It’s no secret that some places just aren’t known for their wine and that a handful of countries and growing regions dominate wine production worldwide.
And we all know why: wine grapes are extraordinarily sensitive to their environmental conditions. The quality of the soil and the trace minerals therein, the water and air, and even the sunlight all affect the final taste of the wine.
Well, the saffron crocus is similarly sensitive to its surroundings, and therefore can only be grown in a handful of places in the world. You need soil that retains just enough water (but not too much); clean air and water; warm, dry conditions; and a host of other factors in order to produce really high-quality saffron.
And for some reason, Iran has been blessed with the perfect combination of all of these factors required to produce the highest-quality saffron on Earth. Sure, saffron can be grown in other places, but the reason why Iranian saffron is so dominant is, first and foremost, due to the local environment.
The power of tradition
Another difference between Persian saffron vs other types of saffron has to do with the way it’s harvested and processed. In Iran, saffron has been farmed for centuries, and many of the small family farms there have been passing down the traditional knowledge of how to properly grow and harvest, from one generation to the next, for as long as anyone can remember!
In addition, the saffron crocus does not reproduce on its own—each year’s crop must be planted from pre-existing bulbs. These saffron bulbs are precious family treasures in Iran, true “heirloom” plants! And of course, the very best of them stay in Iran.
So while it’s not impossible to find good quality saffron outside of Iran, the fact that Persian saffron has the weight of thousands of years of tradition behind it makes it unlikely that any other region will overtake Persian saffron any time soon.
Iran is Iran?
If you’re buying Persian saffron, it will likely come from one of several major growing regions.
Khorasan area of Iran where the quality of the air, water, and soil is still unspoiled by modern industry and development. The rural character of this region has another major advantage: it’s where you can still find the little family farms that do things the old-fashioned way. These little farms still grow, harvest, and process saffron without resorting to agribusiness shortcuts like chemical fertilizers and pesticides or harsh drying techniques.
Obviously, we’re a little biased, but we think that Khorasan saffron is the best of the best—which is why we’re not surprised that every batch of our saffron has exceeded the ISO quality standard, by up to 20%, in lab tests.