The Saffron Crocus, Crocus sativus, originated in the Middle-East and is an autumn-flowering perennial plant unknown in the wild. The saffron we use in cooking comes from the three stigmas of the blooming crocus plant.
Saffron is usually grown outdoors, however you can grow saffron indoors, if you take into account that the plant requires lots of light and a dry period before blooming.
Please be aware that the Saffron crocus plant is poisonous, so use caution of you have young children or pets around, too.
Container – Terra cotta pots are preferable as they are porous, but any pot or window box will do as long as it is deep enough and you are able to provide good drainage for the corms/bulbs.
Soil – prefers friable, loose, low-density, well-watered, and well-drained clay-calcareous soils with high organic content. One solution is to lay 1 to 2 inches of fine gravel or coarse sand in the bottom of a planter that is approximately 6 inches deep. Fill the container about 1 inch from the top with a rich, well-draining growing medium.
Dig a 2- to 3-inch hole in the soil and place the corm in it , root-end down. Cover it with soil. Place corms two to three inches apart if planting more than one crocus in the same container.
Place the planting container in a cold room, approximately 35 to 48 degrees, where it will receive four to six hours of sunlight a day.
Around April, or when spring arrives in your area, move the planter box to a warmer location to mimic the spring weather it would naturally experience outdoors. Temperatures of 50 to 70 degrees are typical for most regions.
Watering – Once the bulbs have been planted, water the bulbs lightly on alternate days. Stop all watering when the grass-like foliage begins to die down, usually around April. Watch for leaf growth from late summer to early fall. Restart the every-other-day watering schedule.
Light – The plants fare poorly in shady conditions; they grow best in full sunlight. Supplement the light from a sunny window with grow lights if you can’t provide around eight hours of sunlight a day.
Harvesting – Harvest the stigmas from the crocus the same day the flower opens. Cut open blooms from the stem and pluck out the strand of saffron with a pair of tweezers. Lay the strands on a paper towel to dry in a breeze-free area where they will not be disturbed. Place them in an airtight container when no moisture remains.
Trim back the spent foliage only when you are certain the plant is no longer blooming. Watch for new buds breaking through the soil within one to seven days after the first blossom. Sometimes a second flower will arise from the same plant.
Cease watering and move the planters back into the cold room for the dormant season.
Lore – According to a Greek legend, the Crocus sprang from the blood of the infant Crocus, who was accidentally struck by a metal disc thrown by Mercury while playing a game. In another legend the handsome youth Crocus sets out in pursuit of the nymph Smilax in the woods near Athens; in a brief dallying interlude of idyllic love, Smilax is flattered by his amorous advances, but all too soon tires of his attentions. He continues his pursuit; she resists. She bewitches Crocus: he is transformed—into a saffron crocus. Its radiant orange stigmas were held as a relict glow of an undying and unrequited passion.
Any food prepared with saffron is a favorite fairy food. Little cakes made with saffron, they are especially cherished since saffron is highly valued by fairies. Saffron used as a dye will turn cloth a royal gold. Such cloth is very valuable to fairies.
Attributes – Love, Healing, Happiness, Wind Raising, Lust, Strength and Psychic Powers.
Saffron is sacred to the God Hermes.