Home-grown saffron is rich and honeyed, and mine is much stronger than shop-bought spice.
Saffron is wonderfully easy to grow. Home-grown saffron is rich and honeyed, and mine is much stronger than shop-bought spice. A narrow 80cm by 4 metre bed can yield over 1 gram (dried weight) – plenty for a few risottos, buns or ice creams, or some wonderful gin! Corms go on sale from July each year, making June a perfect month to plan where they will go.
Bear in mind saffron flowers in autumn, bulking up for the next season after flowering, so choose a position with full autumn and winter sun. They don’t like sitting in waterlogged soil either. My plots are fairly heavy London clay and I have raised my beds by 15cm, which is enough to keep them from rotting. I also feed the soil with plenty of well-rotted horse manure and mulch thickly with either more manure or spent hops to keep weeds at bay.
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Corms are dormant by June. The foliage has died back and there is nothing to see above ground. I use this as an opportunity to lift and divide them. I grow saffron in narrow beds, which, given that one corm develops into 4-6 new ones over a season, quickly become congested. At which point they dwindle in size and flowers become fewer. Nice, fat corms about 8-9cm in circumference should flower in the same year – if you grow your own you’ll also find some corms get much, much bigger! When your corms arrive, plant about 10-15cm apart and deep, and wait. Flowers appear over about 3 weeks between September and November, and you need to be prepared to pick each morning come rain or shine!
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