Growing and Harvesting Saffron Crocus


What is Saffron Crocus?

Saffron Crocus scientifically known as Crocus Sativus Linnaeus is a genus of the Iridaceae family. It has a thousand-year history of being a seasoning, fragrance, dye, and medicine. The high price of saffron is because cultivating, harvesting, and processing saffron are very labor-intensive procedures. For the record, in order to have only 1 ounce of top grade saffron, you need more than 4600 flowers or 14000 stigmas. It’s just one of the several reasons why saffron is the most expensive spice in the world.

Saffron has several names in different languages such as “Za-faran” in Arabic, “Fan Huang Hua” in Mandarin, “Safran” in French and German, “Zaaffran” or “Kesar” in Hindi, “Safuran” in Japanese, “Acafrao” in Portuguese, “Shafran” in Russian, and “Azafrin” in Spanish. It is also known as “Rose of Saffron”, “Crocus”, and “Hay Saffron”. You can read about the history of saffron around the world.

growing saffron crocus

Growing Saffron Crocus

Saffron crocus blooms in fall and produce fragrant, purple flowers which each of them is almost 4 inches tall. Each saffron flower produces 3 stigmas – they are sometimes called filaments. People use saffron as a dye, seasoning, and medicine. Saffron Crocus comes from the saffron crocus bulb (Crocus sativus) which is an autumn blooming crocus. Actually, this spice is the very red stigmas of this crocus flower. Each flower produces 3 stigmas and each saffron crocus bulb produces only one flower, another reason for the high price.

when to plant saffron crocus

When to Plant Saffron Crocus Bulbs

Saffron Crocus produces a purple flower with red stigmas in fall from a saffron bulb – a corm. Farmers plant them in spring or early fall. Normally, the corms (Crocus Sativus) start blooming in almost 6 to 10 weeks and less commonly in 4 to 6 weeks later. Farmers must plant the saffron bulbs at least 6 weeks before the season of frost starts. Saffron flower has a long floral tube that keeps the ovary belowground and shelter it from climatic changes and sever conditions. In addition, saffron flowers close at night and also when the weather is dull.

where to grow saffron

Where to Plant Saffron Crocus Bulbs

Saffron crocus needs a severe climate to grow, an area which experiences dry and hot weather in the summer and cold weather in the winter. Saffron plants need a soil with a well-draining capacity and plenty of sun light. If you plant the saffron crocus in swampy soil or with poor draining capacity, it’ll rot. In absence of a soil rich in organic matter and enough sun light, the saffron crocus is not worth the labor and time.

Farmers plant the crocuses and wait until late fall to see them sprout from the saffron bulbs. The saffron flowers start to bloom in late fall and then the precious orangish-red stigmas reveal themselves. Saffron is primarily cultivated and grown in Iran (the lbiggest producer in the world), Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Spain.

Harvesting Saffron

When the time comes to harvesting these jewle-colored flowers, the hard work begins. Since the saffron flowers are small and the red stigmas are even more delicate and thin, they are picked by hand. The whole process of harvesting, separating and then drying the fragile saffron stigmas take quite time and expertise. After all, weighing and packaging still need careful attention. Now, you can begin to realize why saffron crocus is crowned as the Red Gold.

harvesting the saffron farm

How to Harvest Saffron Crocus

The genuine quality of saffron crocus and red stigmas lies within a tight relation with its origin, who picks it and how they pick, dry, weigh and pack it. It’s true that many attempt to switch or mix high-quality saffron with lesser quality. That is why the packers of saffron are the main players in the process of delivering the best quality saffron. Still, there are several technical ways to tell the high quality saffron from the non-pure ones. You can level up your knowledge by studying other articles on the lab test plus analyzing the facial features of saffron types. Village Saffron is proud to announce that we ship the saffron package along with the require certifications and test labs to prove the purity, sanitation, and high quality.

when to harvest saffron

When to Harvest Saffron Crocus

After the saffron crocus reaches the maturity and blooms, the farmers or the pickers start picking the flowers very gently. They start the picking by October to the beginning of November. The process of picking the saffron flowers is even more labor-intensive. The saffron flowers bloom at dawn and it means that the pickers are ready for duty. The pickers or collectors must pick the saffron flowers the very same day they bloom because they wilt very fast. The red stigmas of the withered blooms lose their favorable aroma and color as the time passes by. That’s why experienced farmers rather start the harvest at dawn, as soon as the saffron crocus blooms and end it by 10 in the morning.

How to Dry Saffron Stigmas

The next step is to separate the stigmas or threads from the rest of the flower very carefully. Then, the farmers themselves or technical staff start the drying process. They dry the picked red stigmas over heat to make the extra moisture go away and also to preserve the original aroma, color, and flavor. In order to dry the delicate stigmas of the saffron flowers, the related technicians dry them over charcoal fires with a specific temperature. The process of drying enriches the intensity of color and taste. It’s worth to bear in mind that to get only one pound of saffron stigma, the collectors need 75,000 blossoms. Saffron contains 0.5 to 1 percent essential oil. Its principal component is picrocrocin which is responsible for the red color.

saffron drying


Considering all the facts mentioned above, you can easily notice why saffron is the most expensive spice in the world and it isn’t only for the labor but also the wide range of benefits. Even more importantly, it is necessary to know how to tell the high quality saffron from the other available options. Village Saffron has the honor to represent the highest quality of Iranian Sargol Saffron, cultivated in rich soils free of harmful chemicals, collected and dried by the experts. You are welcomed to visit our online store to see more and also ask for the quality test certifications. Please feel free to contact us at any time.

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