It’s Useful To Know How To Grow Saffron Because It Is Incredibly Expensive To Buy. It’s Easy To Grow But Time Consuming To Harvest Saffron. This Article Explains The Processes.

Saffron, is harvested from the Saffron Crocus, Crocus sativus. It’s an autumn flowering bulb that has a vivid crimson anther and style which are called threads. Thought to have originated in Iran , Mesopotamia or Greece the plant is now widespread and can be grown in the UK. In fact, due to previous cultivation some places became known as centres of cultivation, the most obvious being Saffron Walden. It seems the whole world now knows How To Grow Saffron, but it remains one of the most expensive plant products in the world.

Saffron: Trade And Flavour

Safranal and picrocrocin are the main phytochemicals that provide saffron’s taste and flavour.

How to grow saffron, Crocus sativus

Described variously as hay-like, tasting of metal, and as similar to iodine, they are much appreciated in many cuisines. A carotenioid, croci, provides a deep yellow hue to dishes in cuisines as varied as French, Moroccan and Persian.

Trade in Saffron can be traced back millennia. Iran has always been a major producer with Kashmir in second place. It was traded along the spice road for centuries but today is produced in small quantities in many countries.

The high cost of saffron is due to the painstaking harvest which sees each strand being plucked from the flowers individually. This makes it the most expensive spice, by weight, traded today. So harvests are best suited to countries where labour is cheap. However, saffron is still produced in the UK, albeit in very small quantities. Several small businesses, including in Essex and Cornwall, have set up in recent years to serve the market for home produced Saffron.

The Uses Of Saffron

Today Saffron used as a seasoning in fish dishes, curries, rice puddings, risottos and as a food colouring. Fortunately not much is needed as it takes around 150 flowers to produce a single gram of saffron.

How to Grow Saffron

Growing Saffron is relatively easy.

The bulbs are planted in summer and are harvested in autumn when they flower. They are forgiving of soil type and conditions but obviously do better in a mixture retentive soil and if kept weed free.

If producing on a very small scale at home they can be planted in lawns so watering etc can be kept at a minimum if required at all.

On a larger scale they can be planted in rows in beds and weeded by hand as and if needed. If I were to go into production on any scale I’d consider growing them in a similar way to how strawberries are grown. In raised troughs as it makes harvesting much easier.

The one piece of equipment needed for harvesting are tweezers. It’s easy, you just use tweezers to remove the saffron strands from the flower. It’s not something to do when on bended knees, hence my idea if growing in raised troughs.

The next thing is to ensure they are dry as damp stamens will soon go mouldy and if too much heat is used to dry them they will lose their unique flavour and taste.

UK Saffron Producers

There are a handful of Saffron producers in the UK. Nearest to me is the Cornish Saffron Company.

Why Is Saffron So Expensive?

The weight of saffron produced pe plant and per acre is very small, plus hand labour is needed. That makes it expensive.

The following video explains more.

Tag: How To Grow Saffron
Image Attribution: Hubertl, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Discovery75
CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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2 thoughts on “How To Grow Saffron

  1. Holly says:

    Very thought provoking article.
    Growing in troughs definitely the secret of easier production. Crawling on hands and knees got to be a major issue! As is sourcing true saffron crocus bulbs . Will be doing some more research on this wet day in the UK

    1. Stefan Drew says:

      Just ensure they are Crocus sativus. They are widely available.

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