Saffron
(Crocus sativus)

Saffron is the red/orange stigma of the Crocus sativus (or Autumn Crocus). This flower only blooms on hot, dry days and the stimga's are handpicked and then dried. It takes more than 75 000 Crocus blooms (each bloom has 3 stigma's) to make 1lb of Saffron which is why it is known as the most expensive spice in the world!.

Due to the high level of labour involved in the processing of Saffron is pretty understandable that this spice is expensive. If you ever come across "cheap" saffron be very careful, there is no such thing as cheap saffron but plenty of immitations can be found but these don't seem to have the colour or flavour of real saffron (they are often a gelatine fake version with tumeric as the colour - they are really easy to spot when you use them as they don't colour up the same and definately don't have the same smell).

Saffron is generally used to give colour and flavour to a wide range of dishes, most commonly to things like Paella, Risotto, Pilaf's & Saffron Cakes.

Saffron is generally placed in stock, water or milk to infuse before being added to dishes but can be added at the end of cooking. If you want the depth of colour that only true Saffron can give then infusion is the way to go, plus you get that amazing smell which can fill the house!

Source
My brain
Herbaceous: Growing, Harvesting & Using Herbs by Sarah Baker (2003)
http://greekproducts.com/greekproducts/saffron/
http://www-ang.kfunigraz.ac.at/~katz...?Croc_sat.html