How to grow saffron – Planting | harvesting | care

Scientifically known as Crocus Sativus, saffron is a flowering plant characterized by bright, beautiful, colorful flowers of pink, red, orange, yellow, and purple, among others. 

It is grown from corms, roots similar to bulbs, and has a golden yellow color and a sweet aroma. 

In Spain, saffron is mainly known for being the base ingredient in preparing paella, and it is used in various parts of the world in rice, meat, and seafood. It has a unique taste and makes meals more enjoyable.

Learn the process of saffron cultivation, its care, and factors to consider when growing saffron. Read on.

Everything to know before growing saffron

dried saffron spice
Dried saffron spice

Vegetable cycle in the cultivation of saffron

The vegetative cycle of saffron is divided into the active, transient, and dormant stages.

The period of activity is when the plant grows and produces roots, shoots, leaves, and flowers, while the transitory period is when the mother corm produces new corms. 

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On the other hand, the dormant period begins during the mature stage, when new corms are no longer being produced. It is characterized by the presence of withered leaves and dry roots. 

It is time to dig up the corms and store them before they are replanted and become productive again.

Corm size

The saffron corms are classified according to their sizes since this characteristic determines their yield. 

Based on several experiences, the conclusion is that the larger the mother corms, the greater their progeny of corms and the yield of flowers and stigmas.

Climate 

Saffron cultivation needs temperatures that do not exceed 35º C in summer and -15º C in winter, making it impossible to grow in tropical or polar climates. It is also essential that they grow in full sun.

Although saffron can tolerate the heat of hot, dry summers, extreme winter temperatures may result in reduced flowering. 

During extreme frosts, it may be necessary to cover the saffron with straw or mulch to protect them until the frosts disappear. 

On the other hand, if the weather during spring is too dry, wet them constantly to obtain a higher yield of flowers.

Floor

Saffron can grow well in several different soils but does best in well-drained, humus-rich, calcareous soils, with a pH of 6 to 8. They will rot if planted in swampy or poorly drained soil. 

To avoid rotting, you should pay more attention to drainage in very wet soils.

Planting saffron

You must plant the saffron corm in a virgin plot, and in the last ten years, you must not have used the land for saffron cultivation or other tubers. Here’s more:

Sowing in plot

Before planting the corm, work the soil to a depth of 50 centimeters so that it is loose and well-ventilated, incorporating an organic fertilizer during the process. 

If you deem it necessary, you can make raised beds for saffron cultivation to ensure proper use of water and improve drainage.

The corms are generally planted 10 to 15 centimeters deep and 15 to 20 centimeters apart. The spacing depends on the size of each corm. 

If you want to make beds, make each 40 to 80 centimeters wide to fit 3 to 4 rows of saffron corms. The beds should have a depth of 15 to 35 centimeters and a distance of 25 cm between them.

Sowing in flowerpot

Place 1 to 2 inches of fine gravel or coarse sand in a 6-inch container, and fill the remainder of the container with well-draining potting soil. Afterward, dig a 2 to the 3-inch hole, place the corm pointing up, and cover with soil. 

If you use a larger container, you can space the bulbs 2-3 inches apart. It would be best to place the pots in a cool room with a temperature of 2 to 9 ° C, where they can receive four to six hours of sunlight. 

Once your plant is established, move it to a warmer area between 10 to 21 ° C.

How to care for saffron

Weed removal is essential in saffron cultivation and should be removed as soon as detected. This is because the longer the weeds remain in the beds, the more difficult it will be to remove them. 

Furthermore, you should remove the weeds manually because weeding machines can cause damage to the corms. 

Saffron cultivation can be useful for up to four years, so remove the corms in the fifth year. This will be noticeable because the leaves will turn brown and wilt.

The corms must also be removed manually to eliminate those unwanted corms later and classify them according to size. Don’t leave them in the sun for more than two hours; sort them immediately. 

Subsequently, store the corms in a dark, dry, and well-ventilated place to be used in the next planting season. 

Harvesting saffron 

Crocus flowers bloom in the fall for three weeks, with an intensive flowering period of two to six days. 

Flowers are generally harvested the day after they appear overnight. Harvest the flowers very early (at dawn or before noon) To prevent the petals from withering.

It is imperative to harvest the flowers when they are still “asleep” to guarantee high-quality filaments.

Threshing

After harvesting the flowers, you should carefully remove the red filaments. Also, remove the white and yellow parts of the stigma, leaving only the red part.

Drying 

The drying of the filaments should be done daily at a temperature not exceeding 60° C, a process that will reduce their size and weight by up to 80%. 

You can carry out this process in an oven by spreading the red filaments on baking paper. Place them in the center of the oven and increase the temperature to about 50º C. Usually, drying is done for 10 to 20 minutes until the filaments are dry. 

In bulk, the threads are generally placed in a particular room heated at 30-35º C for 10 to 12 hours. Some more modern methods include using a dehydrator at a temperature of 48°C for 3 hours. 

Although the drying time depends significantly on the number of filaments to be dried, it is vital to remember that excessive drying will reduce their quality. Properly dried filaments are deep dark red with dark orange tips. 

Storage

After drying, wait for the filaments to cool, wrap them in aluminum foil and place them in airtight jars. 

Cover the jars and keep them in a cool, dark room for about thirty days before taking them to market.

Conclusion

Depending on the climate, you can grow saffron about 3-5 weeks after planting the corms. Be sure not to expose them to so much heat to avoid losing their quality.

Precious is a vast researcher and has a knack for writing. She is also passionate about learning and personal development. She is a graduate of Human Anatomy and is given to helping people live a healthier and happier life.