How to Grow Saffron

comments (13) July 29th, 2008

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Dry the bright red stigmas of Crocus sativus, and you have saffron.
Dry the bright red stigmas of Crocus sativus, and you have saffron.Click To Enlarge

Dry the bright red stigmas of Crocus sativus, and you have saffron.

Photo: Boyd Hagen

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Lancaster County cuisine is a humble cuisine. For centuries, our Amish and Mennonite kitchen gardens have produced farmers’ food—basic, unassuming meals that are meant to “stick to your ribs” and nourish your soul. My Mennonite grandmothers were not trend-setting gourmets. They knew nothing of nouvelle brunches, or spa cuisine, or macrobiotic dinners. Our food, here, is not about tarragon sauce and angel-hair pasta. We think in terms of quantity, not subtlety, at our farm tables.

For many visiting food lovers, it comes as a great surprise, then, to discover that our rural Pennsylvania Dutch cooks are connoisseurs of the world’s most expensive and exotic spice­­—saffron. Elsewhere, this garden spice is often shrouded in an aura of exotic mystery, but Lancaster County gardeners have been growing it alongside the cabbages for centuries.

  SaffronRelated article:

Saffron in the Pennsylvania Dutch Tradition

Saffron recipes:

Stewed Chicken with Saffron and Chervil
Saffron-Flavored Spelt Salad with Corn
Saffron Tea Cake

Saffron recipes from

Saffron usually means classical European cuisine, not American farm food. It is meant for risotto in Milan, and bouillabaisse in Marseilles, and paella in Madrid. But thankfully, it is also meant for chicken pot pie in Lancaster County.

Here, saffron is not the extravagant luxury it is thought to be elsewhere. Roman emperors bathed in saffron-scented waters and carpeted their theaters with the purple blossoms. Mennonites never did all that. Saffron, for us, means food—chicken dishes. This crocus provides the deep yellow color and pungent flavor that is critical for the success of some of our most traditional dishes. Actually, any dish using poultry or egg noodles is fair game for saffron in Lancaster County. Our traditional cuisine calls for this yellow seasoning so frequently that we have been referred to as the “Yellow Dutch.”

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posted in: flowers, spices

Comments (13)

catcreek writes: Saffron does not grow from seed. Only from corms which multiply rather rapidly. I have grown successfully in Texas and am currently setting up four raised beds to "experiment".
Posted: 11:26 am on April 18th
Pramila writes: Does saffron grows in Himalayan region
Posted: 12:11 am on March 28th
laxmansinh writes: bee hives helps to cross breed flower and vermi cultires compost is usefull to grow safforn rapidly also improves quality of crops
Posted: 3:55 am on April 22nd
Posted: 3:34 am on April 22nd
keithkundu writes: Hi! can one grow saffron in Africa. Particularly Kenya's Rift valley? I am very interested in growing this.
Posted: 8:53 am on March 28th
fshah writes: Hi everyone,
Prices of the best saffron (kashmiri) has dropped significantly to $3 per gram at source, you can imagine how much will be at retail elsewhere.

Posted: 11:01 pm on August 15th
NINEOFTEN66 writes: This is amazing. Thank you! you've really inspired us. I am already converting the kids 'old sandbox" into my saffron garden bed and will make a go of growing it for personal consumption...especially for the Paella dish my Danish spouse has perfected! By the way, why did you say pull the Portalacha? Can't you let them just go to seed and regrow for next year too? Thanks

Posted: 8:56 pm on July 17th
fshah writes: Ms Tahmineh, for your kind information Kashmiri saffron is so good, popular and expensive that iranian stuff is mixed to create cheaper product.
Posted: 6:57 am on July 17th
CADreamin writes: Formerly from San Diego we retired to Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico. A friend is giving me a saffron "plant". We are currently in our hottest time of the year with daytime temps in high 80's - low 90's. Mid-June we will welcome our rainy season. I'm excited to see what will happen with my new plant.
Posted: 10:42 am on May 20th
Bonsaimatty writes: I got some of those saffron seed not sure if there legit but iv got something growing will keep you posted
Posted: 6:33 pm on March 25th
bilbo98 writes: I just got some saffron seeds sent to me and i have tried tio find out how to grow, but i keep on getting how to grow from bulbs ? help.
Posted: 2:20 pm on February 26th
trinijune writes: Hello - I would really like to grow my own saffron but I live in the Caribbean where the average daytime temperature is 31 degrees C, every day. Do you think it would be possible? Thank you for any advice.
Posted: 7:23 pm on October 18th
Tahmineh writes: Hi, this is avery informative website, however, saffron originally comes from Middle East, especially Iran. The best saffron in the world is still comes from there, not mixed and the best aroma. It is not only used in cooking, it can be brewed with the tea leaves in the traditional Iranian tea pot.
Posted: 12:44 am on June 23rd
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