Three years ago, my husband one day had the idea that he wanted to grow saffron. He started to look into the spice, which costs easily $20 for a 1/4 of an ounce. A QUARTER OF AN OUNCE!!! They literally measure this spice by grams!
HOW TO GROW SAFFRON
What we quickly found out is that saffron is actually stigmas of a crocus bulb. Tim ordered a bag of Crocus sativus corms, even though they are hardiness zone 6-8. We planted the corms as soon as we received them. The directions were easy enough to follow, 4 inches down 4 inches apart. Then you wait…The leaves of the plant first emerge and look like grass almost…but shortly thereafter these beautiful purple flowers appear.
To harvest the saffron, all you have to do is pluck off the stigmas when the flowers are at their peak of opening (usually mid morning). You can pluck them by using your finger or you can use tweezers. There should be about 3 stigmas per flower.
A few days later, the flowers die back, but the grass-like leaves will remain for a few weeks; usually becoming covered by snow. Then we don’t see these guys or know if they made it, until they remerge in the fall (usually October).
HOW TO STORE SAFFRON CORMS
Since we are a zone 5, they recommend digging up the corms after the first frost, but before the ground has completely frozen. You would then place the corms in a box, covered in peat moss or something to keep them relatively dry. Place the box in a cool place (usually a basement).
Other people actually plant the corms inside of pots. They then place the pots outside, into the ground in the spring and keep them out until the leaves of the plant die back. This allows them to just pick the pots up (rain, snow or shine), and bring them inside for the winter. You would just leave the corms inside the pot, and put the whole pot in the basement. Then after the last frost has passed, bring the pot back outside and let the crocus go through its normal cycle once again.
Honestly though, we planted our corms on the south side of the house, next to the side walk, and we keep the snow off of it (for the most part), and they have come up every year. We also have a few in raised beds, and those have also come back. I just have too much to do in the fall to be worried about digging corms, so we thought we would give it a go in the places with the best shots and if they survived *YIPPEE* and if not, we were out some money. So far we haven’t lost any in the main places. We did loose a few that we tried to transplant into pots too early.
HOW TO USE SAFFRON
Once your saffron is harvested, you want to let the threads dry in a warm place. We place ours in our window sill of the kitchen in a small glass bowl. Then keep them in a closed container until you are ready to use them. We used an old glass spice container that was washed and empty. It says it takes 150 flowers worth to reach one gram of dried saffron, we do not have that many and have not used our saffron yet…we are waiting until the end of this year, as we should have between 25-50 threads this year.
HOW TO CARE FOR THE CORMS
You will have to split your corms every 3-4 years. They multiply and eventually will crowd each other out, making less flowers. By splitting, you get more corms, and more flowers, which just means more saffron! This year our plants have 2-4 flowers per original corm, so it is pretty exciting to be able to split them next year!
Hope that all this information helps you be able to buy your own Crocus sativus corms. We had purchased our corms through White Flower Farms online, but I can no longer find their link to the corms, except in a fall mix they have. It doesn’t list the Crocus sativus specifically in the mix, but the picture in the lower left looks like it 🙂 but you will get other corms you may not want or care to pay for.
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