Crocus sativus or Saffron Crocus is the flower that produces saffron, the infamous herb used to add colour, aroma and flavour to Mediterranean cuisines. Only a few threads are needed to flavour a dish, as this spice is quite pungent.
Saffron crocus is native to Greece and southwest Asia. It can be identified by its bright purple petals with dark purple veins and three distinctive red stigmas (the saffron threads) in the middle. Each plant will bear up to four flowers. It grows to a height of 8-12 inches (20-30 cm).
Saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world, but you could always grow your own! Growing saffron is quite easy and will add colour and beauty to your fall garden. Even when the flowers fade, the attractive, grass-like foliage will continue to grow! Plant this perennial bulb in the summer in full sun in well-drained soil in a shelter spot. Space bulbs about a foot apart. The blooms will open up in the sun and close during a rainy day and at night.
The saffron can be harvested in the fall, generally around Halloween. For the best aroma and colour, it’s best to pick the flowers early in the morning. Be sure to dry the stigmas (saffron threads) thoroughly before storing them in a cool, dry place in a tightly-sealed container.
Climate zones: 5-8
Fun Flower Facts about Saffron Crocus:
- The word Saffron came from the Arabic word Zafaran, meaning yellow.
- The flowers can be used as a dye for clothes and cosmetics. A single grain can colour 10 gallons of water with a golden hue!
- Saffron is thought to have antibacterial properties, and is used to treat coughs,colds, stomach aches and bronchitis.
- It takes about 80 000 flowers to make one pound of saffron spice!
- Saffron is harvested in the fall, with the process done by hand.
- Iran produces about 90% of the world’s saffron.
- Saffron spice can cost upwards of $5000/lb. The best quality saffron is a deep red color, along with a honey-like aroma and a delicate, musky and earthy taste.
- Romans used to take baths infused with saffron.
- Saffron is used in some perfumes.