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7 of the world’s most expensive spices

Imagine paying five figures for mere fistfuls of spice.

There are humble spices such as chili powder or garam masalas that barely cost anything, and then there are those worth more than their weight in silver. Yet, there’s a chance that you’ll find both ends of the spectrum in your pantry. Which ones should be used sparingly?

  • Saffron

    Price per kg: US$11,000 (S$15,300)

    Move over, truffle. Did you know that saffron is among the most expensive food on Earth?

    Native to Central Asia, this Indian / Middle Eastern spice is actually extracted from the stigma (female bits) of the Crocus sativus flower. Large harvests are required to yield a sufficient amount of saffron threads; each flower only has three stigmas, so it takes 110,000 - 165,000 flowers to produce one kilogram of dried saffron threads. This makes saffron production an extremely labor-intensive and time-consuming process.

    Today, saffron is grown mainly in Spain, Italy, Greece, India and Iran, with the best quality saffron originating from Kashmir. Traditional uses for the saffron threads included using it for its color and to spice food, and using saffron water to perfume baths, houses and temples.

    Saffron is still undeniably considered a culinary treasure and used in cooking, cosmetics, staining, medicines (believed to be the cure for almost 100 diseases and illnesses in the Middle East and Asia), and is also used to create signature perfumes thanks to its soft and intimate odor profile. While several different varieties and brands of this vibrant spice exist, if you come across saffron that is not expensive, then it’s not pure saffron.

(RELATED: How is the equally ancient tea trade catching up with the digital age?)

A version of this story first appeared on Luxury Insider.