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Factors To Be Considered For Growing Saffron

Factors To Be Considered For Growing Saffron

We all know that saffron is one of the most expensive spices. Growing it is an economical way to include this exceptionally valuable spice in your recipes. Once you know the basics and the right method, you can easily grow it by yourself. This article provides brief information about the same.
Mayuri Kulkarni
The botanical name of saffron plant is saffron crocus/crocus sativus. It is a species that belongs to the family Iridaceae. It is a perennial flowering plant and grows in very few parts of the world. It is a spice that is obtained by drying the stigma of the flowers of this plant.

Saffron Plants

It is an autumn flowering plant that is native to Southwest Asia. Saffron is a thread-like spice that is reddish-orange in color, has a bitter taste, and a sweet smell. These threads have a typical hay-like fragrance due to their chemical composition. They contain a dye which imprints a yellowish-golden color when used in cooking. It is used as a coloring and seasoning agent in many of the recipes. Apart from this, saffron also has certain important medicinal properties like, they are anti-carcinogenic, antioxidants, and immunomodulating. It is also used for perfumery purposes in countries like China and India.

How to Grow Saffron

To obtain one pound of saffron, one needs to have approximately 80000 flowers. You need 50 to 60 saffron flowers to yield one tablespoon of saffron. And, a pound of saffron can cost anywhere between $500 to $5000. So, it would be safe to say that, growing the plant is an inexpensive way of enjoying the benefits of this valuable spice.

The saffron plant is one of the first bloomers of spring, but it continues to bloom even during fall. It grows on a bulb like part called 'corm'. The plant bears narrow leaves with purple-colored lily-like flower. One corm produces one flower and each flower has three stigmas, from which saffron is derived. Growing the plant is easy, but you need to be very patient. The ideal process to be followed is mentioned below.

Get the Corms
The first and foremost thing you need to do is to get the saffron crocus corms. These corms are hard to find in nurseries and garden stores. But, you can easily purchase them online by placing an order with a reputable online nursery. Ensure that the corms are not damaged and have no fungal growth on them. These corms do not remain fresh for longer time. Hence, you need to plant them as soon as they are delivered to you.

Find the Location
Zones six through nine are favorable for planting saffron. These plants require a lot of sunlight and well-drained soil. They can also grow in partial shade. The plant can rot if you choose a swampy and moist location. Also ensure that the location is not windy. Since the plant requires rich soil, prepare the soil well in advance before planting the corms. To enrich the soil, you may use organic compost.

Planting the Corms
You should ideally plant the saffron crocus either in late spring or early summer. Planting it in hot summer yields the best harvest. When you obtain the corms, dig holes in the ground that are 3 to 4 inches in height and keep a distance of 6 inches between two holes. Place the corms in these holes and protect them with mesh enclosures.

Caring for the Plant
It requires very less care once it is planted. You can fertilize the plants once a year and see that you keep them dry in summer and moist in fall. The flowers last for about 3 weeks after blooming. A good saffron flower can blossom to a height of 4 to 5 inches with long red stigmas. After that, the plant bears long green leaves that sustain for 9 to 12 months. You will obtain corms from the mother plants. You can dig up and divide these baby corms in summer and plant them in some other location.

Harvesting Saffron
To harvest saffron, you need to pick out those long red stigmas from the saffron flowers. You should ideally harvest the flowers in the morning, when they bloom completely. Remove them carefully with tweezers and dry them in a warm and dark place for at least 3 days. Once they dry completely, store them in an air-tight container.

The plant is easy to care for, and requires less maintenance. But, you need to ensure that you are planting it in the appropriate season.