saffron Crocus sativus, the most expensive of all spices. True saffron is contained in the orange-red stigmas of the crocus flower. The stigmas are dried and stored in sealed containers to avoid bleaching. The final product is an aromatic, matted mass of narrow, threadlike, dark orange to reddish-brown strands about 2 cm (1") long.
Originally from W. Asia, and particularly from Persia, the saffron crocus has also been widely cultivated in S. Europe since ancient times, to be used for its medicinal properties, in food, and as a dye.