Let yourself be transported by the exotic dishes prepared with saffron… from your own garden!
Saffron, also known as “red gold” because of its rarity, is also available to you!
To ensure the purity and authenticity of this extremely sought-after spice, which is often adulterated in preparation (especially powdered saffron), grow your own saffron!
In this article, you will discover how to make your own saffron and you will quickly be seduced by this precious little flower!
What is saffron ?
Saffron or Crocus Sativus is a variety of crocus flowering in autumn, native to the Mediterranean basin. Since ancient times, this valuable flower has been appreciated for its many uses: in cooking, as a dye, for its medicinal properties and even as a perfume!
Exploited and traded, saffron quickly spread beyond the Mediterranean countries. Each country found a new use for it and this plant, which is worth its weight in gold, “external sign of wealth” became very sought after by the nobility.
Nowadays, saffron has become an essential ingredient in many dishes and specialties.
The good news is that this spice has a very strong aroma, so you will need very little saffron to season your dishes and bring out the delicate taste of saffron! No doubt you recognize the typical yellow-orange color of saffron in Paella Valencianna or Risotto alla Milanese, but there are also many other exotic recipes and even sweet dishes incorporating this ingredient.
Planting of the Saffron Crocus
The Crocus Sativus is planted from July until the end of August. In this way, we assure a bloom for the months of September to November. In general, the flowering occurs 4 to 6 weeks after the plantation
Plant the bulbs at a depth of 20 cm and respect a spacing between the bulbs of 8 – 15 cm (according to the size of the bulbs).
A too sandy ground risks to dry too quickly and thus to cause the death of the bulb. In theory, the culture of the saffron does not require watering but in the case of a strong dehydration a punctual irrigation is welcome. The culture of Crocus Sativus is greedy in resources and that is why, it is better to prefer a soil rich in organic matter. Finally, a deep (30 – 40 cm) and aerated soil is favorable to a better development of the bulb.
The plant needs an exposure full sun and does not tolerate the shaded exposures.
To avoid any competition, it is recommended to weed regularly between the bulbs of Crocus Sativus. A too strong weeding could lead to a real decrease of the bloom.
Finally, because of the impoverishment of the soil, it is imperative to pull out your bulbs every 3 to 5 years and to move them.
You can pull out the saffron bulbs at the end of June / beginning of July and replant them by spacing them as at the time of the plantation by adding some compost.
The original bulbs multiply and if you have enough space, you can replant them all. Note that the smallest bulbs will not give flowers the first year but in the following years.
We advise not to replant Saffron in the same place and to let the soil rest for 5 to 10 years. To reduce this rotation time, do not hesitate to enrich the soil regularly and to bring green manure.
In autumn, when the days start to get shorter and cooler, the first Crocus Sativus flowers break through the soil and make their appearance. It is soon time for the harvest!
The Saffron flower is capricious. It needs to be harvested early in the morning once the dew has evaporated but before the petals open at the risk of the sun drying out the stigmas.
As all the flowers do not bloom at the same time, it is important to repeat the operation daily to ensure an optimal quality of your saffron.
Once the flowers are harvested, it is necessary to proceed to their “pruning”. This step, which must imperatively be carried out the same day as the harvest, consists in removing the 3 stigmas of each flower, so as to keep only the red part. You can use tweezers, a small curved scissors or your fingernails! You will then feel a very pleasant smell of rose.
The last step before tasting is drying. This crucial step must again be done quickly after pruning.
The drying can easily be done in a domestic oven, at very low heat. The saffron will lose 80% of its weight ! A drying at 50°C during 20 minutes will guarantee a spicy saffron, while a drying at 30°C during 30 minutes will guarantee a saffrony saffron. If it rained during the harvest, extend the drying time by a few minutes, because it is imperative that the saffron is dry to avoid any risk of mildew. The final color will be of a red a little bit darker than the fresh stigmas.
We will keep this red gold in a hermetic glass jar, away from the light. It is necessary to let it refine 2 to 3 months. Before this period, the saffron will not have acquired all its perfume and will thus have little culinary interest.
Then, you can keep your saffron during 3 years in these conditions.