Picking harvesting saffron threads from saffron crocus (Crocus sativus) flowers

How to grow saffron

Saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world - but it's easy to grow your own. Find out how with the help of our expert advice.

Do it:

Aug

Takes just:

30 minutes

At its best:

Oct, Nov

Saffron crocuses (Crocus sativus) not only provide dainty blooms to brighten your pots and borders in autumn, they are also the source of the spice saffron.

As this is one of the most expensive spices in the world by weight, it's well worth growing your own. The bulbs are widely available from mail-order bulb and seed companies and you'll need to plant plenty for a good crop - you'll need around 150 flowers to produce one gram.

Saffron strands are the stigmas of saffron crocus flowers, and these simply need to be removed then dried.

The saffron can then be used to add delicate colour and flavour to a range of dishes.

You will need

  • Saffron crocus bulbs (Crocus sativus)
  • Trowel
  • Tweezers

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Plant the saffron crocus bulbs in late summer, in pots or borders, in a warm, sunny spot. Space them 15cm apart, at a depth of about 10cm, then firm down the soil and water in well.

When the crocuses flower in autumn, harvest the saffron strands by removing the long, bright orange-red stigmas from the centre of the flowers using tweezers. Each flower produces just three stigmas, so harvest them carefully. 

Lay out the harvested stigmas on a paper towel to dry out thoroughly for a few days in a warm, dry place, then store in an air-tight container. Use sparingly in a wide range of dishes, both savoury and sweet, where they will add colour and flavour.

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