Aromatic plants

Saffron flower

From Asia to our gardens: the saffron flower

Saffron is one of the oldest plants found in our gardens. Native to the areas of Mediterranean Asia, its spread is due to the Greeks, who began its cultivation throughout the Mediterranean area, starting from 200 BC Spice of the gods, Saffron was known more for its healing, aromatic properties and decorative, than for its use in the kitchen. It was used, in fact, as a perfume, for fabrics and environments, as an aphrodisiac and digestive and, from the extraction of the flower stigmas, a highly sought-after coloring substance was obtained. It was therefore a very precious and expensive spice, so much so that it was used as a bargaining chip. Even today the saffron flower is considered a very precious and sought-after aromatic plant, especially for the process of harvesting the flower and withering. Yet growing it in your own garden is very simple. Just follow a few basic steps.

Let’s get to know the saffron flower more closely


The saffron flower, «Crocus Sativo», is a bulbous plant from the iridaceae family. It is characterized by long and narrow leaves, of a beautiful deep green, which enclose the actual flower, composed of 6 deep purple petals. In the heart of the flower are the precious stigmas, three small bright red stems, the female part of the plant, which rest on as many yellow stamens, the male part. This particular structure means that the flower does not generate fertile seeds. Its reproduction, in fact, takes place by «cloning the bulb», a factor that makes it particularly adaptable and resistant, on any type of terrain. In fact, if we want our saffron flower cultivation to bear fruit, we have to start with the soil. The plant, in fact, it prefers sandy and very draining soils, such as to guarantee it the right supply of water, without the risk of stagnation which could be fatal. However, the climatic conditions seem to give no problem. Like many bulbous plants, the «Crocus» also resists the harshest winters and the hottest summers.

When and how to plant the bulbs


The best time to plant the saffron flower bulbs is the period from August to September. The sprouting and flowering cycle takes place, in fact, with the first months of autumn, between September and October. We prepare the soil for cultivation and draw a furrow long enough to leave five centimeters of distance between one bulb and another. Let’s proceed with the burial of the bulbs, to an ideal depth of ten centimeters; so let’s cover them with earth, without compressing it excessively. Let’s remember to dig a small drainage channel parallel to the row of newly planted bulbs, in order to allow the correct drainage of the soil. For best results, remember to plant a maximum of 60 bulbs per square meter. Thus all the plants will have ensured the right nourishment. We should wait 3 to 4 months, before seeing the first shoots appear, and in any case not before the second half of October. Within a few days, the leaves open, bringing out the saffron flower. The period of maximum flowering is between October and November.

Saffron flower: Flowering and resting of the saffron flower


Our bulb opened and gave birth to two to three flowers. A few hours after flowering, the stigmas will also appear. This is the right time to harvest the saffron flower. Each flower is detached by hand, using the thumb and forefinger, and without using scissors or blades. We must be very careful and follow the flowering of the «Crocus», daily. It is very important, in fact, to pick every single flower a few hours after its flowering and at the first light of the morning, when it has not yet completely hatched. A few tricks that will allow us to preserve the freshness and fragrance of the stigmas. At this point it is possible to proceed to the withering, or to the collection of the stigmas. The first thing to do is to remove the petals one by one, being very careful not to touch the interior of the flower. Once its heart has been «laid bare», each stigma must be delicately removed, directly from the base, and then dried. The planted bulbs will give leaves throughout the winter, and then go dormant in the summer and resume sprouting with the arrival of autumn.

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