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What is the Shelf-Life of Saffron?

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Q. Thanks for the scoop on saffron. But another question: Do saffron threads have a shelf life? The answer should help determine whether it's wise to buy the "lifetime supply" ($50 for an ounce) all at once or buy it in smaller amounts as needed.

A. Every food has or should have some kind of shelf life — even Twinkies. But in this case, we went back to the source, King Arthur Flour, to ask about their saffron. They said it is Spanish "select" saffron, and that the threads are packed in a tight tin. It should be stored in a cool, dry place, and stay fresh for — drum roll, please — a minimum of three years.

You'll have to do your own economic justification, but it seems to us if the saffron lasted from three to five years, you could make a pretty good case for averaging $10 to $15 a year on an advance purchase of the aromatic ingredient, if you were committed to using it and made good use of it. Bought piecemeal at $4 a pinch, you'd start saving money after your 13th saffron dish within that three to five year period. Clearly it is not a spice that should be allowed to languish on the shelf in whatever quantity.

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