Saffron is a very costly spice, used to flavor and color food. The spice is actually the dried stigma (tiny threadlike strands) of the Crocus Sativus Linneaus, a member of the iris family. A flower's stigma accepts the pollen that is produced by the stamen, which becomes the seeds of the next generation. Each stigma is very small, and tens of thousands of individual strands go into a single ounce of the spice; since the stigmas are hand-plucked from the individual flowers, saffron's high cost becomes more understandable. It is thought that saffron is the most expensive spice in the world.
Saffron originated in the middle east, but is now also associated with Greek, Indian and Spanish cuisines. Fortunately, a very little saffron goes a long way — it is a spice to be added one thread at a time. Just a thread or two can flavor and color an entire pot of rice. The flavor is distinctive and pungent. Most 'saffron rice' mixes commercially available actually use a substitute which dyes the rice the distinctive yellow but which does not impart the flavor of true saffron.