There is NO ‘Z’ in Saffron!

You will NEVER find a big bag of REAL saffron for less than 3 bucks

I hate when we get mislead…it happens all the time. Something is advertised as tasting like ‘cookies,’ but all you get is crap. Or when a food lures you in with bright colors and promises of exotic flavors, but after a single bite you are left with nothing except a bland mouthful of overpriced nonsense. And then there are those times when you think you are getting some sort of health benefit from ‘superfood’-packed-products, but all you really end up receiving is a bunch of marketing hype.

Saffron, the secret spice that gives Spain’s famous pallea dish the bright yellow hue is truly a  special ingredient. It is  one of the MOST EXPENSIVE spices in the world.  So you can imagine how shocked I was to discover something that looked like saffron at my local Walgreens. Upon closer inspection I realized that this was FAR from saffron. First of all, I noticed that the label seemed funny; there in no ‘Z’ in saffron. Secondly, a bag of saffron would cost a small fortune…NOT $2.49. Even if it was one of that week’s specials. And finally, I was in a FREAKING Walgreen’s! No true saffron would ever be found stashed between jerky and breath mints in a typical convenience store. It would be like finding a gourmet filet mignon on a McDonald’s menu, or a bottle of fine Champagne in a coke vending machine.

I flipped over the package to check out what this was…and it was clearly some fake saffron impostor made in Mexico. And just staring at the red ‘stuff’ inside the bag, I realized that it did not really ever resemble the delicate, bright-red, ‘stems’ of authentic saffron. This looked more like chopped up lawn mulch dyed red (and likely could have been just that).

This is worse, FAR WORSE, than those cheap Chinese knockoffs that are posing as original Swiss Rolexs. This fake saffron has crossed the line…it is one thing to mess with our luxury time-pieces, but when anyone starts screwing with our food, then not only is our healthy appetites for tasty grub threatened, but so is our overall health and well-being. I am sure  this fake crap could lead to real medical problems…what if someone was allergic to something used in the manufacturing of this ‘Zaffron?’ Stuff like this really frustrates me.

I guess we should all know better than to look for gourmet ingredients in a Walgreens. (Unless your dentition of ‘gourmet’ includes pizza flavors Pringles)…

This is the REAL stuff; saffron from Spain. It is NOT cheap and it is something I rarely use. The flavor is mild and it is often used to provide the bright yellow/red color to certain dishes. My loyal sous-chef, Dozer, is always looking for the opportunity to ‘clean up’ after I have used rare spices. His taste is expensive, so whenever something like saffron is pulled out, he stands at attention. (oh…and in SPANISH, there is a ‘z’ in genuine saffron- Azafran…but you get what I mean. This is CLEARLY a completely different product then ‘Zaffron’)


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Categories: Rants, Unexpected Randomness

Author:Mr. Fed Up

A guy looking for good grub. and YES....I have a website...and I am not going to bore you with one of those personal journal type of blogs. I promise. Check it out;


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6 Comments on “There is NO ‘Z’ in Saffron!”

  1. elangomatt
    August 15, 2012 at 11:34 am #

    I too think this is really misleading. I would probably get fooled in the store with this too except for the fact I know saffron is probably the most expensive food in the world. Paying $2.50 for half an ounce of saffron would probably be like paying 10 cents for a gallon of gas. It just doesn’t happen. (Holy crap! The “cheap” saffron on Penzy’s is $170 for half an ounce! The best on there is nearly $300 for half an ounce)

    I actually just googled “Azafran En Flor” and learned something new today. (Does that mean I can go home from work now since I learned something new?) I found out that it is actually made from the saffron flower, but the “En Flor” part means that it is the petals of the saffron flower instead of the stamen, which is what real saffron comes from. It can be sold cheaply like that since there are a lot more of the petals to go around than the stamen. Apparently azafran en flor will still give off a saffron like color, but it really doesn’t have any of the flavor that the real saffron will give the dish.

    • August 15, 2012 at 11:39 am #

      WOW. Thanks for educating me too! I think that we both deserve to go home after learning new information today!!! So basically it is really a scam…selling the petals to fools who think they are getting a tasty-Spanish-spice… I think this is almost as bad as if you bought a bag full of ‘carrots’, but all you got was the the carrot tops/greens…. This actually reminds me of how annoying it is when you buy cheap bulk frozen broccoli, most of it is just the ‘steams/trunks’…Looks like I have some fuel for ANOTHER ‘rant’…THANKS!

  2. August 15, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

    I think there’s a lot of hype around Saffron. Sure it’s expensive – and for good reason, it takes 100 of1000s of hand-picked and prepared Crocus stamens per pound – but to be honest there’s very few recipes that call for it and for those that do it’s used sparingly indeed. As a chef I’d put it in (some) Risotti, Paella and certain Indian dishes and that’s about it. If it’s colour you’re after then Turmeric (oftentimes deceptively marketed as ‘Indian Saffron’) does the job admirably, but like Saffron you’ve got to be sparing, because the taste is unpleasantly ‘medicinal’ if you overdo it; and besides, no-one likes their food with a garish, ‘radioactive’ colour. If it’s not from Spain it’s not worth buying; (dried) Paprika likewise – most other so-called Paprikas are little more than mildly-flavourful brick dust.

    On a tangentally-related issue, have you read American Chef, Anthony Bourdain’s autobiography ‘Kitchen Confidential’? If you enjoy heartfelt, food-related writing/ranting he really can’t be beat. I read it years ago and I’ve recently picked it up again and it’s no less brilliant the second time around. Keep up the culinary rants Mr Fed Up.

    • August 15, 2012 at 3:54 pm #

      Hey Guls,

      Yep..that picture of the REAL saffron is of a NEVER opened container that my sister picked up several YEARS ago. I just never found a reason that I really needed it (I don’t really cook much Spanish or Indian foods). And you are right, there are certain spices that you can not buy the cheap version of. As you mentioned, paprika…I only buy the expensive stuff sold in tins and imported from Hungary (I make a mean seasoning mix where sweet Hungarian paprika is the secret ingredient).

      I will have to check out that book. I really like Bourdain’s TV shows and his whole ‘ranting’ personality. Thanks for the suggestion…and THANKS for reading Fed Up!

  3. October 9, 2012 at 9:39 am #

    Playing Catch Up. I love to add saffron to cream soups, like oyster stew and Clam Chowder and occassionally to scallopped potatoes.

    But rather than use cheap saffron knock-offs or that is mostly filler, a better substitude is Turmeric, which is also called ‘poor-man’s Saffron’. It is a whole product that is exactly what it is supposed to be and not a phony.

    I think I shall need to find that book as well.

    • Mr. Fed Up
      October 10, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

      Tumeric is good stuff for presentation, but I just don’t get much flavor out of it. Maybe this is because I use other ingredients that over power it.

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