Q. Saffron spice is very expensive. Can I produce my own?
Yes, you can certainly grown your own saffron.
Saffron is the dried stigmas (female sexual parts) of the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus). Unlike other crocuses, the saffron crocus flowers in the fall. Crocus sativus should not be confused with the commonly grown autumn flowering crocuses of the genus Colchicum (these are poisonous).
Saffron is very expensive because a great many flowers are needed to produce a small amount of spice. However, even two dozen saffron crocuses will produce enough for your family's use.
When a few basic conditions are met, these crocuses are relatively easy to grow. They are Mediterranean plants, so they like sunny, relatively dry conditions. The most important factor in growing them is well-drained soil. Soil drainage can be improved by adding sharp sand to the soil, as well as compost.
You can plant saffron bulbs (actually corms) either in spring for flowering the same year, or in fall for flowering the following year. The growing area should not be watered in summer, as that is the dormant season for this species. The corms should be planted quite deeply--about 4-6 inches.
Saffron crocuses do best in USDA Zones 6-8 but can tolerate Zone 5 conditions in a sunny, sheltered location. Some experts recommend planting new bulbs every year for the best results. If you are lucky enough to get large clumps of crocuses, they should be divided every 2-3 years.
To harvest the stamens, collect fully opened flowers mid-morning on a dry, sunny day. Cut open the flowers and remove the three orange-red stamens (note that the saffron crocus has three stamens and the poisonous crocus has six stamens). Dry them in a warm place and store in a closed container. Enjoy!
For tips on a variety of gardening topics, see our Plant Information Guides.
- Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service
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