Precious saffron! But how to grow it indoors on the balcony, in pots or in the garden? When to sow the bulbs? How to take care of it? And how to get the spice considered red gold?
We know saffron (Crocus sativus ) as one of the most expensive and mildest flavored spices in the world. Its high price mainly concerns the methods of its production and harvesting, which must be done manually to obtain a high-quality product. Precisely because of the high production costs, the European cultivation of saffron is in decline.
Worldwide, saffron is grown mainly in India and Iran. However, there is no lack of saffron crops in Italy, which mainly affect the regions of Abruzzo, Sardinia, the Marches, Umbria, and Tuscany. In some cases, the production of PDO saffron takes place in our country.
The saffron harvest takes place in December and its cultivation requires very careful work, especially as regards the arrangement of the bulbs and the choice of the soil. The best time to plant bulbs is the end of August and the beginning of September.
Is it possible to grow saffron in the garden or in pots on the balcony? You can absolutely try to have a small production available, enough for the family.
In the case of the cultivation of saffron in pots, you can enrich your balcony with beautiful plants with purple flowers and characteristic red stigmas, which once dried in the sun and reduced to powder will give rise to the spice we know. In short, the home cultivation of saffron allows you to enjoy the beauty of its flowers and prepare some good risotto while saving a little.
Grow saffron in pots
Saffron is grown from bulbs, as is the case with tulip or iris flowers.
Saffron bulbs can be purchased online or from a trusted nursery. The cultivation of saffron can take place for pleasure, in pots, or in the garden. In this case, a handful of bulbs will suffice, depending on the space you have available.
You can create decorative jars by planting a saffron bulb in each of them. Or you can plant more bulbs in a larger pot, at least 5cm apart and 5-10cm deep.
Saffron fears water stagnation in saucers. Always remember to empty them. To grow, saffron flowers need little water, but a lot of light, so choose the position of the pots well.
Grow saffron in the garden
As for the cultivation of saffron in the garden, you can think of creating a small flowerbed or forming borders with saffron flowers, which will be very decorative. Consider that the cultivation of saffron in Italy, since it takes place in autumn with harvest now towards winter, mainly concerns the central regions with a milder climate, such as Umbria or Tuscany.
Professional saffron cultivation
The professional cultivation of saffron instead takes place starting from at least 400 bulbs, in order to obtain a more consistent production. With a good number of saffron bulbs, it is possible to create a small plant. The rows must be at least 50 centimeters apart, the distance of the saffron bulbs on each row is at least 5 centimeters. The depth for planting saffron bulbs is 15-20 centimeters. The soil must not be clayey.
Sowing: Saffron bulbs should be planted between the end of August and the beginning of September – this is considered the ideal time.
Harvest: the saffron harvest takes place in December.
Watering and care: saffron is not afraid of frost, it needs little water (as, for example, in the case of tulips), it is not afraid of drought, it does not require irrigation, but if you live in rainy regions you will have to pay attention to water stagnation, which can cause the bulbs to rot.
Collect and store saffron
As with most flowers grown from bulbs, saffron does not require special care in terms of growth. Difficulties come at harvest time. Saffron flowers only open for a few days and wither quickly. For this reason, the collection of saffron stigmas should already take place on the first day of flowering.
After collecting the flowers, the red stigmas will have to be removed very gently, with the help of tweezers. Then you will have to place them in a small container or on a paper towel and let them dry before transferring them to a jar or glass tube, to be kept tightly closed to preserve the saffron aroma.
It has been calculated that for a family of 4 it will be necessary to grow 16 saffron bulbs, in order to have the quantity of space available to prepare 4 saffron-flavored dishes for each within a year. For cooking, you can also use fresh saffron – very small quantities will suffice. To get a spoonful of saffron stigmas, you will need to grow at least 40 bulbs.