Saffron is sold as whole threads or in powder form. Threads are preferable, since you can see what you're getting. Use your senses to examine the saffron: Look for long threads, about three-quarters of an inch, and a bright or deep red color, with few yellow styles. Smell the saffron, and taste it if possible. Pure dried saffron is very aromatic and tastes pleasingly bitter yet floral. A stigma placed on the tongue should never taste sweet. Ground saffron may be adulterated and often has less flavor.
Markets—even Indian ones—typically sell only Spanish saffron, both because of its quality and because it is widely available. The manager of one Indian market told me that he takes Spanish saffron back to