Saffron is one of the most expensive spices used today.
It is the tiny stigma of the Crocus flower
Crocus sativa. Each tiny stigma is plucked from
the flower by hand.
The dye molecule in saffron is the carotenoid
β-gentobiose crocetin. It is related to
β-carotene, and you can
see the relationship in the center of the molecule. That center
portion is the carotenoid pigment crocetin:
On either side of the crocetin molecule is a disaccharide molecule
called β-gentobiose, and the result is the molecule that gives
saffron its yellow color.
Saffron is a spice, added sometimes for flavor, but mostly for the
yellow color it imparts to foods.
Because of its expense, saffron is often replaced in recipes by
or the unrelated dye molecule in
Like the other carotenoid dyes, saffron is an anti-oxidant, but
its expense makes it unsuitable as a preservative or dietary
By Simon Quellen Field