As summer is coming to an end and autumn cools down the night temperatures, saffron crocus bulbs start shooting green springs up out of the soil. A few weeks later the first flowers appear, which means that it’s time to start harvesting one of my favourite spices: saffron. I’ll tell you below how I harvest my saffron and prepare it for storage.
Saffron flowers have a very short season in early autumn. Saffron bulbs first start shooting up the leaves of the plant. Those will look like fresh green grass popping up from the soil and then soon after that the flowers will appear.
I like harvesting the flowers before they open. I protect the red stigma that will become the saffron strands from the elements like that. If the flowers are left to fully open up in the garden and enjoy their appearance in garden, the quality will be less.
I harvest the flower by pulling it out of the centre of the plant with two fingers. I pinch it out. You don’t want to remove more than the flower, as the bulb produces multiple flowers per bulb and the leaves are needed to bring down energy to the bulb during winter.
I bring the flowers in the house and remove the red stigma from the yellow stamens and purple flower. I do that by opening up the flower with one hand and carefully pulling out the three-part red stigma out of the stem of the flower with two fingers of my other hand. I hold the stigma as close to the stem as possible. Then I dispose the flower and the stamens and only keep the red stigma to dry.
As I separated the stigma from everything else, I start the drying process. For that I use a piece of kitchen paper on which I place the separated stigmas next to each other to air dry. It’s best to dry them in open air. I always try to make sure that they can’t fly away by accident, so I like to fold the paper in two and put a little weight on top in a corner, so that I know that they will stay safe until they are dry. They can totally dry out as soon as within three days or so.
Below you can see the freshly harvested stigma’s on the left. They are nice and moist and light in color. On the right you see stigma’s that have been drying for a few days. They look darker and thinner, but they are not totally dried out. I will leave them to dry a few days more as our weather is quite wet.
Saffron should not be used immediately after it dried. The flavour develops in the few months that follow. I start using my saffron about two months after it has been stored after drying.
I like to store my saffron in these tiny jam receptacles in a dark drawer. For each year I have a tiny jar. But it can be stored in anything else really, as long as it is air tight and deprived from light.
And that’s it. It’s as easy as that to harvest, dry and storage saffron. I find this harvest one of the most enjoyable harvests of autumn. It also makes your house smell delicious.