Soil and Cellar

Growing and preserving foods in Seattle

Saffron Harvest!

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Saffron crocus - Crocus sativus - flower showing off some of its potential.

Saffron crocus – Crocus sativus – flower showing off some of its potential. I like how it looks like it’s sticking out its tongue. 🙂

Ok, this is a little silly, but I am so excited. We’ve been growing a small patch of saffron crocuses (Crocus sativus) for about 5 years now. Last year they bloomed for the first time, if a bit sadly. But the snails got to them before we could harvest any of the saffron. I couldn’t believe how fancy those snails were, dining on the most expensive spice in the world without a second thought. The nerve!

The crocus plants. They aren't much to look at (and these have been chomped a bit by snails) but keep plugging away.

The crocus plants. They aren’t much to look at (and these have been chomped a bit by snails) but keep plugging away.

Last week, D told me they were blooming again. One or two flowers already seemed to be missing their pistils (the saffron comes from the some of the female parts of the flower, the style and stigma), but one of the flowers had been broken off – presumably a snail ate the base of the flower, not knowing what glories were hidden a little higher up. I picked the saffron out of the soil, dusted it off, and set it on a plate to dry. At that time, I put snail bait around the plants, hoping to get one or two more chances.

Looking down inside an open flower. You should see the bright red style and stigma, but those have apparently been eaten off this flower.

Looking down inside an open flower. You should see the bright red styles, but those have apparently been eaten off this flower. But the next one is about to open!

This morning, another crocus was blooming! D pointed it out, and I ran out in my pjs and slippers. And OF COURSE a neighbor was walking her dog right in front of my yard, further proving my theory that every time I leave the house w/o makeup (or in today’s case, a bra) I will run into someone I know. ANYWAY, I grabbed that crocus, one pistil protruding enticingly from between the petals, and brought it indoors. I cut open the flower to find a fully intact pistil, and removed the red and orange parts of the style and stigma.

And here's the first flower the snails ignored. It was broken off at the base, and the saffron parts were scattered but mostly in tact.

Here’s the first flower the snails ignored. It was broken off at the base, and the saffron parts were scattered but mostly in tact.

I have done a little Googling of saffron production lately, to make sure I was getting the right part of the flower. The pictures of people pulling the styles off thousands of crocus flowers are bonkers. It makes my miniature harvest seem very childish, but whatever. It’s no surprise that this spice is the most expensive in the world, the amount of work and time that goes into producing this tiny spice is astounding. Seriously, look through the Google images of saffron harvest. Amazing.

Saffron removal. I cut open the flower and cut out the style. All three styles are attached at the base, but where I cut them they were no longer connected.

Saffron removal. I cut open the flower and cut out the bright red styles. All three styles are attached at the base. You can also see the pollen covered male parts – the stamen.

The 6 little styles are now drying in my cupboard, in a small dish. You dry them in a dark place, not too hot or humid, for about a week and then store them in a container. I have never cooked with saffron before, and I suspect with 6 pieces I won’t be able to do much. But I just feel so proud of our little plants! And we still may get a few more. We aren’t in a prime saffron growing region, clearly, but with a little patience and the ability to strike while the iron is hot, I may just have some saffron rice before long. Yay!

And here they are drying in  a dish. For reference, the larger pieces are just over an inch long. The tiny ones are from a few days prior. They should be ready to store in a jar very soon.

And here they are drying in a dish. For reference, the larger pieces are just over an inch long. The tiny ones are from a few days prior. They should be ready to store in a jar very soon. Isn’t it cute how they curled up?

Crocus sativus are a fall blooming crocus, but are not to be confused with colchicums. Colchicum are in the same family but are poisonous, so don’t eat those. Honestly, they are pretty easy to tell apart. I totally love our colchicums, but nothing beats the excitement of a potential saffron harvest!

5 thoughts on “Saffron Harvest!

  1. That IS exciting! I’ve been meaning to write to tell you how much I enjoyed meeting you at IFBC. I can’t wait to hear how you use these! I made a peach-saffron jam last year that I loved but I seem to remember using more than 6 threads. 🙂

  2. My version is here: http://emmycooks.com/2012/09/29/saffron-peach-jam-2/ The original is so savory it’s almost not-sweet but version I preferred is sweet (you’ll notice that this is a theme, I have such a sweet tooth), with earthy undertones from the saffron. I wonder what other fruits saffron goes with? I am going to have to dig out my Flavor Bible. 🙂

  3. Pingback: little things amaze me | Eternal StudentShip

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