Saffron is the most expensive herb in the world at thousands of dollars a pound.
The bright red stigmas add yellow color and a flavor that’s part of Persian, Spanish, Indian, Asian and Pennsylvania Dutch cooking.
And you still have time to grow your own. Saffron crocuses bloom in early to mid-fall. Plant them now and you’ll see flowers next fall and maybe this fall.
Follow these tips:
- Look for Crocus sativus, a plant with purple flowers, yellow stamens and red stigma. The similar-sounding autumn crocus or colchicums don’t produce saffron and are poisonous when eaten. The plants are grown from bulb-like roots called corms.
- Plant saffron corms in July or August.
- Plant corms in an area with full to partial sun (at least five or six hours a day) and well-drained. Plant corms two inches deep in groups, flat-side down. Plant groups six inches apart. The groups should be divided every two to five years in July or August.
- The crocus blooms are six to 12 inches tall and two to four inches wide.
- Early in spring, leaves appear and then wither in hot temperatures. A second set of leaves pop up in the fall, followed by flowers.
- When harvesting, the stamens need to be separated from the flowers quickly or they will be lost in the gummy flower.
- The stamens are then dried at room temperature, at a low temperature in the oven or on top of a radiator.
Sources: Nebraska Agricultural Extension and saffron farmer Martin Keen