How to plant saffron

Crocus sativus

Saffron is a plant grown for the collection of stigmas (the part of the flower that receives pollen), which when dried and ground are a spice used in various culinary dishes, including famous dishes such as Spanish paella and French bouillabaisse. It is also used to color, flavor and flavor foods such as cheese, butter, sauces and drinks. The plant has an underground corm from which the leaves and flowers emerge, which can reach 15 to 30 cm in height. Each plant produces one or more flowers (up to 5 flowers) of violet, pink, red or white color annually. The saffron spice, often called real saffron to distinguish it from imitations, is aromatic and has a strong flavor, and being a natural dye, it dyes the foods prepared with it yellow.


Saffron grows best in a subtropical climate, but can be grown in a colder climate, as long as there is a period with temperatures suitable for growing for about six months. The ideal are rainy springs and hot, dry summers, with rain or irrigation preceding flowering, which occurs in autumn, but without heavy rains or frosts when the flowers bloom, as they can decrease or ruin the harvest. Hot and humid weather is not suitable for growing this plant.


You should receive direct sunlight for at least a few hours daily. This plant has a short day photoperiod, requiring about 11 hours of light or less per day to flower in the fall.


Cultivate preferably in light and well-drained soil, moderately fertile and rich in organic matter. The soil pH can be between 5.5 and 7.5.


Irrigate in order to keep the soil always moist in the spring months, but during the summer the availability of water should be minimal. In the beginning of autumn, irrigate again, suspending again when the flowers start to appear.


Saffron does not produce seeds, so planting is carried out exclusively by young corms, which are produced by the plant every year.

The corms must be placed in ditches, so that they are covered by 10 to 15 cm of soil. The planting lines can be spaced 15 to 20 cm apart and, in large plantations, some planting lines must be spaced at least 50 cm apart to allow the movement of workers who carry out cultural treatments and harvesting. Plants can be 5 to 10 cm apart from each other.

Saffron can also be grown in pots and planters. It usually takes six plants to produce enough saffron for use in a medium-sized recipe.


Regularly remove invasive plants that are competing for resources and nutrients.

Although the plant can survive for more than a decade, after a period of cultivation of three to five years the plantation must normally be renewed, removing the corms available and planting them in another location. In some regions the plantation is renewed annually, especially where the winter can be severe, requiring corms to be removed from the soil and stored, but thus productivity is lower, as each plant generally produces only one flower in the first year. Yield is higher in the second and third year of planting.


Flowering normally occurs in the fall, and flowers that are already open should be picked in the coolest hours of the day. On the same day the stigmas must be separated and dried in the sun, or better yet, dried for a few minutes in a metal sieve over the fire, so that the air around the stigmas is at a moderately hot temperature (about 70 ° C for six minutes). Inadequate drying at too high or too low a temperature can affect the quality of the saffron. After drying, saffron should be kept in closed opaque pots. About 100,000 to 200,000 flowers are needed to obtain one kilogram of dry saffron.

Saffron can be toxic in large quantities. In the amount normally used in food preparation, its consumption is safe.

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