Originally, Saffron was obtained by drying the stigmas of Crocus Sativus over an open fire. Saffron has been mentioned since ancient times - in ancient Egypt and in the Bible, often being said to be an extremely valuable medicine and dye.
The dye still plays a role in marriage ceremonies in India. It has long been a very costly material, even being used as a medium of exchange.
During the first half of this century, Spain was producing 50,000 kilograms of saffron annually. You can imagine how many crocus flowers were needed to produce this much by knowing that it takes the pistils of 150,000 crocus flower to produce 1 kilogram of saffron! C. sativus, its species name meaning ’very good to use’, belongs to the autumn-flowering species.
Saffron Planting guide...
- Plant your Saffron Bulbs from late December through to late March.
- Plant around 10cm apart and 10-15cm deep, in nice, free draining soils – ensure that they get plenty of sunlight.
- Saffron flowers in its first season, roughly 40- 60 days after planting.
- Rain or watering 10-15 days before flowering results in higher production; dry conditions will often cause smaller flowers and thus smaller stigmas.
Saffron Corms tend to Naturalise incredibly well in our climate, but we recommend lifting them every 3 to 4 years, as flower numbers will begin to drop after this point. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the amount of corms that you get out of the few that were planted!
Harvest the flowers by pinching off at the base with your fingernail, or with a slight twisting movement.
They are best harvested in the morning after dew has evaporated – it’s possible to harvest the stigmas without picking the flowers, but a little difficult, so our suggestion is to pick the flower, and then collect the stigmas.
Once you’ve collected the Stigmas, it’s important to dry them as soon as possible to avoid rot.
Drying Saffron Stigmas...
There are a couple of tried and tested ways of drying your Saffron Stigmas - Dehydrating using a Dehydrator, and drying them using your oven. The aim is to get the moisture content to around 10% (we don’t want them too dry and brittle now do we!), and to have them a glossy red colour.
If you’re using a dehydrator, around 3 hours should do the job, at around 48degrees.
With an oven, up to 110degrees should be fine - if it’s at 110degrees, you should only need to have them in there for 2minutes.
It’s somewhat of a trial and error, so give them a go and see how they come out… there’s always tomorrows stigmas if these don’t pan out!