10 of the World’s Most Expensive Ingredients

Tauseef Mustafa/AFP/Getty Images
Tauseef Mustafa/AFP/Getty Images

Gourmands around the world delight in sampling some of the most exclusive and expensive ingredients. With this list, you can too—if you have thousands of dollars and many hours to spare tracking down specialist suppliers, that is.

1. SAFFRON

Pound for pound, saffron is more expensive than gold, mainly because the harvesting process is so labor-intensive. Saffron is the dried stamen of the crocus plant: Each crocus produces just three stamens, and each of these must be hand-picked and air-dried. It takes about a football field’s worth of flowers to produce one pound of dry saffron, and about 40 hours of labor to pick all those flowers. However, saffron is usually sold in small portions, because a little of the spice goes a long way in flavoring dishes. The top saffron is Spanish coupe grade, which retails at about $20 for 2 grams.

2. HAWAIIAN KONA NIGARI WATER

The world’s most expensive water comes from 2000 feet under the ocean in Hawaii. Because the water is taken from such a great depth, it is supposedly free from contamination by pollution and is said to help with weight loss and improve skin condition. The desalinated water is a seawater mineral concentrate and should be mixed with normal water before drinking. Hugely popular in Japan, it costs $402 per 750ml (about 25 fluid ounces).

3. ALBA WHITE ITALIAN TRUFFLES

white truffles
Giuseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty Images

White truffles are expensive because they are so rare. Only available for a few months of the year in one small part of Italy (the Piedmont area) they must be foraged by specially trained truffle-pigs (or, in some cases, truffle-dogs). The truffle harvest fluctuates depending on how favorable the growing conditions have been that year. They’ve been known to go for $2000 a pound.

4. WAGYU BEEF

The Champagne of beef, Wagyu beef comes from Japanese cows famed for their high level of fat marbling. It is this marbling that lends the beef such an amazing flavor—the fat has a low melting point, so it melts into the meat when cooked, resulting in a juicy taste. Wagyu beef goes for about $100 a pound.

The best Wagyu is said to come from Kobe. With only about 3000 cows certified as Kobe annually, and even fewer of these destined for export, Kobe beef is one of the most exclusive foods in the world—priced at around $300 a pound.

5. ACETO BALSAMICO TRADIZIONALE

True traditional balsamic vinegar takes at least 12 years to produce and is protected under the European Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) system. Trebbiano grapes grown in the Emilia Romagna area of Italy are harvested and the grape must (the pressed juice, skin, seeds and stems of the grape) is then boiled over an open fire before being stored in wooden casks for up to 25 years. 100ml of this specialty vinegar (about 3.4 fluid ounces) can go for $180.

6. YUBARI KING MELONS

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Yubari King melons are a cross between two cantaloupe varieties and are cultivated in greenhouses in the Yubari region of Japan. These melons are traditionally given as gifts, frequently in perfectly matched pairs, and the most sought-after are exceptionally round with a smooth rind. The most exclusive pairs of melons are sold at auction and can cost as much as $12,400.

7. JAMON IBERICO DE BELLOTA

 slice of dry-cured Jamon Iberico de bellota
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Produced from black Iberian pigs in the west of Spain, the special taste of this pork product is said to derive from the sweet acorns (bellota) that these pigs forage from the forest floor. The production of the jamon (Spanish dry-cured ham) is strictly regulated by Denomination of Origin (DO), a Spanish system meant to ensure quality and geographical origin of traditional foodstuffs. These rules specify that there can be no more than two pigs per hectare of land, to ensure the porkers can forage the 11 or so pounds of acorns a day needed to reach the required weight of about 350 pounds by the end of the acorn season.

After slaughter the hams are hung up to dry, a process that can take up to three years. DO inspectors are sent out to sniff the ham to ensure it is of the correct quality to be classified as Jamon Iberico de Bellota (only about eight people have sufficiently well-trained noses to hold the jamon-inspector post). Hand-sliced Jamon Iberico de Belotta can cost around $220 a pound.

8. HOP SHOOTS

The latest vegetable fad is the hop shoot (or hop asparagus), a by-product of the brewing industry—hops shoots are the green tips of the hop plant, which won’t go on to produce the flowers used in making beer. The vegetable is costly because harvesting the tiny tendrils is back-breaking work, since each shoot must be found amidst a sprawling plant and gently picked by hand. In some parts of Europe, the hop shoots can go for $128 a pound.

9. MOOSE HOUSE CHEESE

There are many expensive cheeses out there to choose from, but Moose House cheese has to be one of the most exclusive. A 59-acre farm in Bjurholm, Sweden, is a small moose farm with just three moose (named Gullan, Haelga, and Juna), who are only milked between about May and September. The moose produce enough milk for about 660 pounds of cheese each season, and Mouse House makes three types of cheese from the milk—rind, blue, and a feta-type cheese. The cheese sells for about $400 or $500 a pound.

10. ALMAS CAVIAR

A technician fills boxes with caviar
Georges Gobet/AFP/Getty Images

Caviar has always been a byword for luxury, but in recent years the most expensive beluga caviar has become even more expensive because the sturgeon it comes from is now an endangered species.

The world’s most expensive caviar is the very rare Iranian Almas caviar, a pale-colored beluga caviar that comes from 100-year-old albino sturgeons from the Caspian Sea. To be an albino sturgeon is rare, but to be an albino sturgeon aged over 100 years? That’s really rare. Naturally, Almas caviar is sold in gold-plated presentation boxes and retails at about $25,000 for 2.2 pounds.

 

This Indoor Garden Grows Up to 30 Fruits and Vegetables With Little Maintenance Required

IGWorks
IGWorks

If you want to always have fresh tomatoes and basil on hand without having to visit your nearest farmers' market or devote multiple hours each week to gardening, there's an easier option—no green thumb required!

The iHarvest is a hydroponic gardening system that lets you grow up to 30 varieties of fruits and veggies—including tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini, watermelon, and various herbs—right in your kitchen. Powered by 72 watts of low-energy LEDs, the system's lighting and watering functions are fully automated, which keeps maintenance to a minimum.

All you have to do is plant a seed in an apparatus called the media, place the media in a pod, and add water to the iHarvest. The built-in timers do the rest of the work, ensuring that your plants are adequately fed and nourished each day, regardless of the season. After water is pumped to the plant's roots, it runs through a filter and returns to the bottom reservoir of the iHarvest device. The water and nutrients only need replenished once every two weeks, on average.

It's quick, too. Tomatoes are estimated to reach their full size in 10 days, and everything that you harvest will be free of herbicides and pesticides. Hanging plants and fruits like squash and cucumber can be suspended from the iHarvest's trellis, and the vertical design also makes it ideal for people in tight living quarters. The entire system takes up just 2.5 square feet of space, measuring 2 feet, 8 inches wide.

Order the iHarvest now on Kickstarter to get 35 percent off the retail price, which lowers the total cost to $549. And if you want to do some comparison shopping, you may also like the OGarden Smart—an indoor garden that lets you grow up to 90 fruits and vegetables.

17 Delicious Facts About Peeps

Getty Images
Getty Images

You know whether you prefer chicks to bunnies, fresh to stale, or plain to chocolate-covered. But there’s a lot you may not know about Peeps, everyone’s favorite (non-chocolate) Easter candy.

1. It used to take 27 hours to make a Peep.

A candy Peep being made
Getty Images

That was in 1953, when Sam Born acquired the Rodda Candy Company and its line of marshmallow chicks. Back then, each chick was handmade with a pastry tube. Just Born quickly set about automating the process, so that it now takes just six minutes to make a Peep.

2. An average of 5.5 million Peeps are made every day.

Peeps candies being made
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All of them at the Just Born factory in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. In one year, the company makes enough peeps to circle the earth—twice!

3. Yellow chicks are the original Peep, and still the favorite.

Boxes of yellow chick Peeps
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Yellow bunnies are the second most popular color/shape combination. Pink is the second best-selling color.

4. The recipe has stayed pretty much the same.

Cooking up a batch of Peeps
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The recipe begins with a boiling batch of granulated sugar, liquid sugar, and corn syrup, to which gelatin and vanilla extract are later added. 

5. The equipment has also (mostly) stayed the same.

Peeps candies being made
Getty Images

Since Just Born turned Peeps-making into an automated process, the chicks have been carefully formed by a top-secret machine known as The Depositor. Created by Sam Born’s son, Bob, The Depositor could manufacture six rows of five Peeps apiece in a fraction of the time it took workers to form them by hand. And that same machine that Bob built has been keeping the Peeps flowing ever since. Until rather recently …

In 2014, the company announced that it was planning to renovate its manufacturing plant, including The Depositor. “It’s a little sad,” vice president of sales and marketing Matthew Pye told Candy Industry Magazine at the time. “Bob Born made it from scratch in 1954 and it allowed us to distribute and grow the brand nationally." 

6. The updated equipment means new Peeps innovations could be coming.

Making Peeps at the Just Born factory
Getty Images

“The investment in our marshmallow making process will allow for more efficiency, more consistency, improved quality, and additional innovation capabilities,” co-CEO Ross Born told Candy Industry magazine about the new depositor, which will be able to produce a wider variety of Peeps in all sizes. “The [old] Peeps line did one thing and one thing very well—cranking out chicks day in and day out. Five clusters, just in different colors,” Born said.

7. Peeps used to have wings.

They were clipped in 1955, two years after the first marshmallow chicks hatched, to give the candy a sleeker, more “modern” look.

8. The eyes are the final touch.

A close up of a yellow chick Peep
Getty Images

The final flourish for all of these squishy balls of sweetness is adding the eyes, which are made of carnauba—a non-toxic edible wax (that is also found in some shoe polishes and car waxes, plus many other candies).

9. Peeps may be destructible, but their eyes are not.

Making Peeps at the Just Born factory
Getty Images

In 1999, a pair of scientists at Emory University—dubbed “Peeps Investigators”—decided to test the theory that Peeps are an indestructible food. In addition to a microwave, the pair tested the candy’s vulnerability to tap water, boiling water, acetone, and sulfuric acid (they survived them all). When they upped the ante with some Phenol, the only things that didn’t disappear were the eyes. 

10. They really are everyone's favorite non-chocolate Easter candy.

For more than 20 years now, no other non-chocolate Easter candy has been able to compete with the power of Peeps. With more than 1.5 billion of them consumed each spring, Peeps have topped the list of most popular Easter treats for more than two decades.

11. There are sugar-free Peeps.

Counterintuitive, we know. But in 2007, the first line of sugar-free Peeps hit store shelves.

12. There are also chocolate-covered Peeps.

Chocolate-covered Peeps hit the market in 2010. Today there’s a full line of them for every occasion.

13. Peeps come in a variety of flavors.

Color and shape (i.e. yellow chick) are no longer the only ways to categorize a Peep. They now come in an array of flavors, including fruit punch, sour watermelon, lemon sherbet, blueberry, and pancakes and syrup.

14. Peeps lip balm is a thing.

Yep.

15. On New Year's Eve, a giant Peep is dropped in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.


PEEPS®

The drop is done with a traditional chick that flashes different colors at midnight.

16. Believe it or not, Peeps are not Just Born's best-selling brand.

That honor belongs to Mike and Ike. (Sorry, Peepsters.)

17. They're a boon to a creativity.

Blue chick Peeps
Getty Images

All over the country, Peeps have become the preferred media for a number of highly anticipated annual art contests. (You can check out some of the coolest creations from Westminster, Maryland's PEEPshow here.)

Updated for 2019.

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