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Crocus sativus

(CROW-kus sa-TEE-vus)


FAMILY:  Iridaceae

TYPE:  Perennial corm

LOCATION:  Full sun.

PLANTING: Fall - spring. Key is to plant before fall rain starts.

HEIGHT:  4 to 6 inches

SPREAD: 6 inches


BLOOM/FRUIT: Lavender flowers with brick red stigmas which makes the spice of commerce.

GROWTH HABITS/CULTURE: Saffron is grown from a corm and has grass-like foliage. It looks like a typical crocus. Flowers emerge ahead of the foliage in late October to early November. Fairly easy to grow in loose organic soil.

PROBLEMS:     Squirrels, rabbits, gophers are the most serious problems. They dig up and eat the bulbs. Rabbits eat the foliage. Repel them with hot pepper, castor oil, and fast dogs.

HARVEST/STORAGE: It takes 2 to 3 years for saffron to mature. Harvest around Thanksgiving. About 5,000 stigmas (1700 flowers) are needed to yield 1 ounce of spice. Harvest the dark red stigmas first day of bloom, dry and store them in a cool, dark place.

CULINARY USES: Flavor for many foods including rice, meats, soups and vegetables. Dark red in its dried state, saffron imparts a rich golden-yellow color to cooked food. It is popular in rice dishes and soups.



MEDICINAL USES: According to Odena, a tea or tincture is good for lightheadedness and considered an aphrodisiac but too much may cause a narcotic effect.

LANDSCAPE USES: Beautiful bulb for fall flower color.

OTHER USES:  Cosmetics, dyes, and perfume.

INSIGHT:  Plant and leave alone for three years. Then dig, divide and expand planting or give some corms to friends. When buying this herb ready to use, get the threads instead of powder. There’s less likelihood of adulteration. For more details read Odena’s Saffron -  King of Spice

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