Saffron flowers are named Crocus sativus and bloom from October to November. The saffron flowers are very useful for cooking, dying and even in some treatment of diseases with other medications. The saffron crocus is made up of three parts that are all separated before the process of drying: the stigmas, the stamen, and flower petals. The stigmas of the saffron threads are what is used in cooking and medicines as a spice. The yellow stamens and purple flowers are used as a dye. To attain the best quality saffron spice, the saffron crocus needs proper handling while the harvesting process is ongoing.
How do you harvest Saffron? Information
There is a specific process of harvesting saffron that needs to be done correctly to get the saffron spice from the crocus sativus. The harvest process is what makes saffron one of the most expensive food products in the world used in cooking. The process of harvesting makes the cost outrageous as it takes a lot of labour-intensive struggle to get the saffron threads. These premium quality saffron threads are three in every crocus flower that means nearly 4000 flowers must be picked and dried to get one ounce of saffron. The price of saffron can be between $500 to $5000 around the world according to the lowest to the highest quality available.
Let us dig deeper to understand when saffron is being picked and how saffron is grown and harvested from crocus sativus.
At what stage should the flowers be picked?
The crocus flower should be picked when it is fully grown and starting to bloom. If you pick up the closed or half-grown flower, its stigmas are not fully developed and are lesser than its size. A full-grown red stigma weighs a fraction of an ounce. If the flower is being picked up when it starts losing its freshness, it becomes harder to pluck them and the stigmas start shrivelling or get dirty.
How to Harvest Saffron? Machine vs Manual Harvesting
The saffron flower is grown in the countries having extremely hot and cold temperatures. The top countries where we can find them are Iran, Spain, France, Portugal, and India. These countries grow the crocus flower that is about 2 inches long with an amazing fragrance. This beautiful flower has a nice colour and aromatic smell. It is picked to use in colour dye but the more important part of this flower is its dark orange-coloured stigmas that are only three in a single flower. These stigmas are then harvested and used as a spice in many of our dishes and desserts. So how are these saffron stigmas harvested?
This widely used spice is plucked from the flowers by hand. Yes, you read that right. Millions of flowers and a lot of struggle are being used to give a little amount of saffron. This needs an extravagant amount of money and effort to save these tiny little threads. Approx. 225,000 saffron threads make a pound that people pluck by hand with tweezers.
How to Grow Saffron Crocus
Growing saffron needs more than usual plant care. It requires areas where the full sun appears, and the right planting time to get the best kind of delicate saffron flowers. Saffron cultivation needs well-drained soil for which it should be grown in an area having 15 – 18 inches of rainfall every year. Heavy rains can destroy these pretty fragile flowers. You can multiply and grow these flowers quickly as growing these flowers is relatively easy and rapid. Approx. 150 – 200 bulbs are planted to serve the average family using saffron.
When you plant the corms of saffron for the first time, choose (if possible) the land that is not used for planting saffron before. Dig the soil up to 20 – 50 centimetres deep to have a well-aired space for the saffron bulbs to spread up the roots. Use organic fertilizer during the process of planting. Plant bulbs of saffron to about 2 – 3 inches deep, water them in small quantities every two weeks and wait for the month of September to pick the saffron and eat your favourite meals cooked with it.
The saffron plants of saffron should be dug up after every 3 – 4 years and the new corms should be planted for the healthy growth of each part of the plant.
Season of harvesting
The months of July, August, and September are best to plant saffron bulbs either by hand or by machine, and the right duration to harvest the flowers starts from the end of October to early November. Harvesting should be done after roughly eight weeks of planting. The Saffron crocus plants are also called sun-worshipping plants so they should be planted in open fields rather than in shade to get proper sunlight.