saffron harvest

Fall-blooming crocus sativus is a plant with purple flowers, yellow stamens and the main attraction: a red stigma that is saffron.

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.
Saffron crocus corms

Plant saffron corms in July and August to start your own saffron garden.

  • 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