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Growing Saffron Crocus – Safflower has a wonderful and vibrant flavor that is used in breads, pastries, and major courses around the globe, from England to India, from the Middle East to Scandinavia, and throughout the Mediterranean. An Indian curry or a Spanish paella, for example, would taste incomparably different if it weren’t for it.
It is really the stigmas, or female components, of the Saffron Crocus flowers that are used to make the vivid red-orange threads that you see when you purchase saffron. Saffron is very costly because it takes hundreds of blossoms to create a commercially usable quantity, which is why it is so pricey.
In contrast, two dozen Saffron Crocus will provide enough of the rare spice in the first year for a few delectable meals for the home gardener who grows the plant. With each subsequent year, the corms (which look like bulbs) will grow, the area of the planting will expand, and you’ll be able to collect an increasing number of the spicy stigmas from the plant.
You should split and transplant the corms after 4 to 6 years of growth (do it right after the foliage has faded). Overcrowding, which may result in a reduction in blooming, is avoided by division.
Saffron Crocus corms should be planted as soon as they arrive if you live in a climate where they are reliably hardy (USDA Zones 6 through 8 in the South and USDA Zones 6 through 9 in the West). A full sun exposure and well-drained soil with a modest amount of organic matter are ideal for growing Saffron Crocus. In order for the corms to remain dormant in the summer, the location should be somewhat dry during this time.
Tips for Growing Saffron Crocus
Plant the corms four inches deep and four inches apart. Alternatively, you may plant the corms in pots or line the bed with hardware cloth or some similar wire mesh if gophers, mice, or voles are a problem in your garden. Flowers typically bloom 6–8 weeks after planting, but they may not appear until the second autumn in certain cases. The blooming period lasts around 3 weeks. The grass-like leaves may bloom simultaneously with the flowers or shortly after they do. In certain cases, they may have to wait until next spring.
In any event, the leaves last for 8–12 weeks before withering and disappearing completely, leaving no indication of the corms underneath them until the flowers bloom again in the autumn. In order to avoid accidentally digging up your corms while planting anything else, it is a good idea to mark the spot where you have planted them with a permanent marker.
Overwintering Saffron Crocus Corms in Cold Climates
Saffron Crocus may be cultivated in places with colder winters than Zone 6, but the corms must be removed and stored inside for the winter. After the first few frosts, but before the ground freezes solid, gently dig up the corms and put them in a wooden box or plastic tub, covering them thoroughly with dry peat moss or sand. Repeat this process for the remaining corms.
Keep the container in a cold (40–50°F) and dry location, such as the basement. You may replant them in the spring after all risk of frost has passed, but you should wait to water them until you observe fresh growth in the early fall.
Planting the corms In cold-winter climates, another way to grow Saffron Crocus is to plant it 2 inches deep in clay or plastic pots filled with a well-drained soil mix and then set the pots directly in the ground, with the rims 2 inches below the soil level so the pots are not visible.
After the plants have died back in the autumn, transport the pots to the basement, where they may be kept dry for the winter months. Next spring, replant the pots in the same location. It’s probably a good idea to indicate the position of the pots so that you don’t unintentionally dig into them again this time.
Harvesting and Using Saffron
Three stigmas are produced in the middle of each purple, cup-shaped bloom, which is then dried and ground into powder. Mid-morning on a bright day is the best time to pick the stigmas since they have completely opened and are still in good condition. Pluck the stigmas from the blossoms with your fingers, then dry them in a warm spot to keep them fresh until you’re ready to use them in cooking. Store it in a container with a tight-fitting lid.
In order to utilize saffron, you must first soak the threads in a hot liquid for around 20 minutes (water, broth, or milk, depending on the recipe). Cooking or baking the threads with the steeping liquid early in the procedure will allow the threads to continue to release their color and taste as the threads cook or bake.