Which part of the plant is Saffron harvested from?
The reason saffron is the most expensive spice in the world is because of how intricate the harvesting process is. Saffron spice does not grow readily off trees. In fact, the saffron threads you know and adore are found within the centre of an autumn flowering plant, the crocus sativus.
What is the Crocus Sativus
Saffron flowers are actually named crocus sativus and are a member of the Iridaceae family. They are a stunning and delicate purple flower that bloom from October to November. Made up of three parts, the flower requires hand picking in order to harvest the saffron threads.
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.
There is a very delicate method of separation required when harvesting saffron crocus and extracting the yellow stigma that is the saffron spice. The yellow or red stigma found within the center of the crocus bulb is what is used for cooking and medicines worldwide.
Despite the abundance of crocus sativus in saffron growing fields, each saffron crocus bulb only contains three yellow stigmas. The process of harvesting saffron crocus bulbs in order to produce the dried stigmas used in cooking is laborious, long and requires a lot of skill.
Harvesting The Crocus Sativus
A total of 400 crocus flowers are hand-picked to produce one gram of saffron. Not only is this a large number of flowers, but there is also no guarantee that each crocus bulb will produce the highly sought-after saffron stigmas.
Growing saffron is quite difficult as it requires a very specific growing climate and rich soils to thrive. First, saffron requires a climate that experiences high hot and cold temperatures. The crocus sativus seeds must be planted in time for the flower to bloom when the soil is in full sun. Getting this timing right is imperative for the production of yellow stigmas.
The crocus flower must be harvested through ancient hand-picking techniques when it is fully grown and starting to bloom. Then, a unique separation technique is employed to remove the valuable threads from their bulb.
The process for harvesting crocus bulbs and nurturing saffron threads into dried stigmas is laborious, delicate and ancient. This is the reason saffron is the most valuable spice in the world.