Crocus sativa Saffron

Saffron Crocus in February

Imagine harvesting your own Saffron threads from the convenience of your windowsill.  Our pots are full of the thin, wispy, pin-striped leaves that the Saffron Crocus produce in the spring. Since so many critters love crocus and since they are such delicate little plants, we recommend container growing. Our 12-inch Windowsill Planter will hold three of our starter plants and our 20-Inch Windowsill Planter will hold six starter plants. Transplanting them now will prepare them for bloom and harvest in fall. 

The convenience of the planter will let you enjoy them inside or out. If you are in Zone 5 or below, the planter will let you easily over winter the corms for next spring. 

The life cycle of the Crocus is similar to many of our native trees and shrubs. For instance, our native Buckeyes and Elderberries tolerate winter; leaf out, bloom, and set seed in spring; and then go dormant for the summer, snubbing the season of fall all together.  With the Saffron Crocus, the only difference is that they put up a flower in fall. The flower lasts about two days and the bloom period is usually between two and three weeks. 

This means that after the grassy growth of spring, the Crocus is going to disappear until fall. And, in that summer period it is important for them to stay dry (another great reason to containerize them). After they bloom in the fall, the pot can be stored in a cool, dry place until the danger of frost has passed in the spring, at which time they can be returned to your patio. 

The corms of Saffron multiply like rabbits. After the flowers are finished, you can lift and divide the corms. They should be air-dried for a few days in a dark, dry spot that is safe from mice. After they are nice and papery, brush the dirt off and store in a paper bag for the winter. The corms can be planted in new pots in the spring. Because dividing the corms can set flower production back, it should be done only when the production of the flowers slows (usually every four years).

While some describe the flowers as unspectacular, we think they are fascinating with their extravagant dark pumpkin colored eyelashes that the scientific community calls stigmas. There are three of these richly colored thread-like lovelies in each lilac-and-white-striped flower. In commercial production today, just as it has been for centuries, these flimsy filaments are actually plucked from the flowers by hand as the flower first opens. They are then roasted over fire to dry.   

For home use, you need to remove the stigmas before the flower folds on the second day of its bloom. Lay them on a paper towel to dry and toast slightly before storing. They may then be stored in an airtight jar. The filaments may be used by soaking in hot water or stock which imparts a lovely orangey color and earthy aroma to whatever the liquid is used in. Indeed, the better the Saffron, the more aromatic and the deeper yellow the color will be. These precious threads may also be powdered and added at the last moments of cooking.

When you consider that it takes 75,000 stigmas to make a pound of Saffron filaments and 4000 blossoms to make an ounce of dye, you have to wonder what inquisitive human being unraveled the mystery of this unassuming little plant. It must just be that ancient civilizations had much less to distract them and, after all,  there were no supermarkets. Each plant was investigated, and as much of it as possible was used. There is a lesson in there somewhere. 

 A savory list of Saffron Recipes
Hmm, lobster linguine, ravioli, risotto, artichokes....

Cultural Information

Height: 3 Inches    

Hardiness: Zone 6

Flower Color: Lilac

Characteristics: Full Sun,

Uses: Culinary, 

We sell only growing potted Saffron, usually in late winter, when it will be offered through our Internet Specials.

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