The Saffron Crocus, or Crocus sativus, is a fall-blooming lavender colored crocus, whose bloom contains a three-pronged red filamentous (thread-like) pistil. It is this red pistil that is used as an herb in so many great dishes. Probably the most famous use is in the Spanish dish, Paella.
Saffron Crocus grows well here in the northwest, and you can buy it as a dry bulb in most quality nurseries in the fall. If planted immediately, it may produce its first crop of flowers and provide you with saffron to eat in two to three weeks!
Saffron bulbs must be planted in well-drained soil where they can receive sunshine most of the day. In other words, they can grow in ugly gravelly soil, so long as they can bake on a hot day. What they don’t like is any form of shade. Their foliage will appear in the fall around the time of the blooms; stay evergreen all winter, and then turn brown and shrivel when it gets warm in the spring.
When they appear, carefully pull the three bright red pistils out of the flower and immediately place them in a small open container. Nimble fingers work best for this procedure.
Once you have finished harvesting the pistils, keep them in a dry warm place until they have completely shriveled to very fine threads. Then the red threads may be transferred into a dry sealed container such as a small Tupperware piece.
The bulbs produce many flowers. Rain or slugs can quickly damage or destroy the pistils in the field, so harvest them daily!
Click here for a Saffron Rice recipe: