Friday, October 10, 2014

Today's Favorite Plant - Crocus sativus

Yesterday, I noticed the first flower of a group of fall blooming Crocus sativus (Saffron Crocus) was open.

The first of many flowers to open.
Crocus sativus is not the easiest Crocus to grow but the reward is harvesting its precious inner cargo makes it worth it!

It likes rich, well-drained soils and very hot summers, which is exactly what we had in 2014 in Portland. Sometimes it blooms well the first year and then sparsely the next. It doesn't force well indoors either. The bulbs are pretty easy to find at the garden center though.

I have several "patches" of Saffron Crocus that have done well. Often the flowers open, just as the rains start, which makes harvesting the stamens harder. I always pluck the stamens at first sight and dry them in a little bowl on my kitchen counter, for use later.

Time to pluck those three stamens!
As a spice, Saffron has been cultivated for more than 3,500 years.
From my little patches of bulbs, I get a small amount of Saffron spice, enough to make my favorite Indian chicken dish. It's also nice to use to infuse into vodka to make cocktails. A Lemon Drop made with home infused Saffron vodka is amazing.

A word of caution - NEVER confuse Saffron Crocus or any other autumn-blooming crocus with the similar looking, but highly poisonous Colchicums. You have to know what you've planted.


  1. How many of these little guys does it take to make a cocktail?

    1. I usually buy a small bottle of vodka (buy whatever you like), then take my home grown saffron (20 stamens?), and perhaps a tiny pinch of kashmir mogra saffron from Penzey's (the price of this will give you sticker shock) or cheaper Spanish saffron and infuse it in the vodka, All the orange color will leach out into the vodka. It really only takes a few days. Then take 2 ounces of saffron vodka, juice of a fresh orange, lemon and or lime and some simple syrup and shake it all up with ice. Makes a great cocktail. Adjust the citrus and the sugar syrup to taste.

  2. I tried these three ears ago. I put the bulbs in a clay pot. The foliage came up but no flowers. Ditto the second year. Then, nothing, nada. You're right. They're difficult, at least for this gardener. Congrats on your success. Maybe I'll give it another go.

    1. Mine are in a hot location that gets a bit of water from the sprinkler during summer. They are odd because they come up in the fall and then die back when the cold weather comes. Most of the year they are underground.

  3. A friend gave me a bunch of bulbs a few years ago, but I think it has gotten too shady around where I planted them. I haven't seen any flowers lately. Even when they did bloom, there weren't all that many. I would definitely have to amend my vodka with some store-bought stamens. How cool that you are harvesting your own! :)