Wednesday

Growing Your Own Saffron


Saffron is an expensive spice that has a very distinctive flavor and aroma. It is prized throughout the world, but often only used for special-occasion dishes because it is so expensive.By weight, saffron is the most expensive spice on the planet.

Where Does Saffron Come From, Anyway?

Saffron comes from the three stigmas of an autumn blooming crocus plant, the Crocus Sativus. The Crocus Sativus is hardy from zones 6 through 9 in the United States, and it can be grown in colder climates if removed to the indoors in winter.

Is Saffron Difficult To Grow?

A good bloomer, the saffron crocus needs well drained, rich soil in a sunny but sheltered location. It is a reliable producer, creating its best crops during hot summers when it has had a chance to dry out a little.  Plant new corms in August at a depth of 4 inches. Flowers should be ready to harvest around Halloween.

Harvesting Saffron

Pick the red stigmas (not the yellow parts) of the plant, and dry them in your oven or in a dehydrator. Store saffron in a dark, cool location in an air tight bottle (brown or cobalt tinted bottles are best).  When properly stored, saffron will stay potent for five years or possibly longer. 


How Much Saffron Will You Need to Grow?

About 40 bulbs will yield a tablespoon's worth of stigmas in a season. (You'll use about 10 stigmas per recipe. At three stigmas per plant, that's enough for 6 good recipes using saffron.) The plants propagate quickly, too, so your yields will grow fast. By the third year, you'll probably be giving saffron threads away to neighbors and friends.

Can You Grow Saffron Indoors?

You can grow saffron indoors, but the plant requires lots of light and a dry period before blooming.  Use soil that drains well, and supplement the light from a sunny window with grow lights if you can't provide around eight hours of sunlight a day. Saffron crocus is poisonous, so use caution of you have young children or pets around, too.

Using Saffron

Now that you have a saffron crop, what's the best way to use your spice? The saffron you use for  culinary applications (it's also used in perfumery) should have a vivid orange/red color. Crush stamens thoroughly (I like using a mortar and pestle), and disperse it in liquid like water before adding it to other ingredients.

Make Saffron Tea

Saffron makes a relaxing ingredient in tea. Add a thread of saffron to a single serving of tea (a strong black tea works well) and prepare according to the tea manufacturer's directions. For a spicy lift, include two whole cardamom seeds to the mix. Add sugar to taste. This kind of gourmet indulgence is possible when you grow your own saffron.

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1 - By Photographer: User:Velela (File:Safrron stigmas crocus sativa.JPG) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

2 - By H. Zell (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

25 comments:

  1. very informative, but can I grow saffron indoors?

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  2. Dear Blender Recipes,

    I don't know for sure, but that sounds like a very interesting project. To try it, you'd need to provide lots of light, good watering in winter, and let the bulbs go dormant with little or no water in late spring. Don't cut them back. You'll also need a deep pot, ten inches at least.

    Hope this helps.

    Sara

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  3. I have been trying to grow my saffron. I got bulbs and now the plants have just been grassy looking and the tips are starting to get brown. The wind has blown them over a bit. What should I do now?

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  4. Kathryn,

    I don't know where you're located, but one common complaint with saffron crocus is that it doesn't like to be wet. The bulbs belong in a spot that gets good sun and drains very well. Saffron doesn't like to be buffeted by the wind, either. I hope this helps you diagnose the problem.

    Sara

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  5. Anonymous5:26:00 PM

    What about the crocuses that pop up in the springtime? Are they the same and do they produce saffron threads that can be harvested?

    You mention the autumn crocus, so I'm just wondering about the ones that come as the "first sign" of spring. Thanks so much.

    Elaine

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  6. Saffron is unique to the Crocus Sativus plant above, and not the spring blooming variety. Sorry.

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  7. I honestly thought saffron was juss propagated from India, thanks for da info... Now I know, and knowing is half the battle, lol. Now I juss need to remember the zone I'm in and go from there.

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  8. Anonymous3:58:00 PM

    Hi! I'm wondering if I could grow it in pots? I have a very sunny deck that could be a good spot,

    Tania

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  9. Anonymous,

    I haven't done it myself, but did respond to a similar query a while back. It's first on the comment list here are may be worth a look.

    Good luck.

    Sara

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  10. Hey, I live in Canada and will try that method of indoor growing if I find no other method that seems better. I'll let you know how it works out.

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  11. Anonymous4:09:00 PM

    Great article, I am looking at starting to grow some. When should you plant them?

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  12. That would be late summer in most areas.

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  13. Anonymous3:57:00 PM

    Hi,

    Good information. Where did you get or buy your bulbs?

    Isabel

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous8:23:00 PM

      Got mine off ebay got 5 bulbs 1.98

      Delete
  14. Isabel,

    You can probably find them locally in spring by their Latin name: Crocus Sativus - or perform an online search. I bought mine from Amazon a few years ago.

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  15. Anonymous11:22:00 AM

    Can we plant saffron threads directly into the soil. Because here in Pakistan, saffron bulbs are not available. somer.

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  16. I'm sorry, no. You need the bulb.

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  17. Once you have harvested the crop is the bulb on the bottom and available for re planting or how do you go about collecting seeds from your original crop to re plant next year

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  18. Hi Tanner,

    After the foliage dies back, cut it and leave the corms (they're like bulbs)alone. They reproduce in clusters you can dig up and divide every third year or so.

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  19. This is very interesting. I do not like to mow my back yard. I have ordered seeds for a plant which will give me greens, and roots to use for eating and drinking (the dandelion flower, & root). I would like to plant the other half my yard with saffron bulbs, and try to grow them as well. I am going to make those plans for this year, as my starter year.

    Your article on Saffron as a home project is so well written. I have been hoping to find information on growing Saffron for some time, and now you have given it to me. Thanks for two wonderful articles, Saffron Growing, and Yarrow! taylor

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    Replies
    1. Taylor,

      Good luck. Come back and tell us how it goes.

      Sara

      Delete
  20. I got some saffron free when I bought some lotus seeds I planted five and put it on my kitchen window sill I now have to that sprouted, will plant the others outside now sheltered

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  21. Not to be a pain, but that poison part scared me. Can you clarify which part of the plant Is poison? I'm new at gardening so some of these terms aren't really clear for me. Thank you!

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  22. Hi Ruth,

    Saffron threads are the long, thin reddish things in the center of the flower. It takes a whole bunch of them to equal an ounce of saffron. I'm not sure if it's the leaves, petals or both that are toxic, but if you stick with the red stigmas, you're golden.

    If you're worried about introducing toxic plants into your landscape, it might make you feel a little better to realize that many plants in the garden are toxic: hydrangeas, rhododendrons, azaleas, English ivy. The list is extensive; many of your favorites are probably on it. Even the leaves of the common tomato plant can be dangerous if ingested.

    Most older kids know better than to eat landscape plants; pets will usually spit out toxic plants (if they try them at all) because they burn the mouth or taste nasty, and younger children should be supervised outdoors for many reasons anyway. Just my two cents.

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