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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 $50-per-ounce, lifetime supply of 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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