Crocus sativus is the autumn bulb that produces saffron. Its origin is unknown. Several hypotheses on the appearance of this crocus have been advanced. The same crocus is used in all countries to produce saffron. It does not exist in the wild.
Crocus sativus is a bulb with an inverted vegetative cycle producing its flower in autumn and continuing its growth until the summer where it lives its period of dormancy. Crocus sativus has an underground and aerial part, whose presence and characteristics evolve during the vegetative cycle. The saffron bulb, the underground part is flattened at the base and protected by fibrous tunics. The flowers are bisexual, lilac-colored covered with dark reticules more or less apparent. They are connected to a pedicel of variable length. The flowers are about ten centimeters in height and 5 to 8 cm in diameter. They come out protected by a translucent membrane and flourish a few centimeters from the ground. The flowers appear in Quebec in mid-October and grow before or after the leaves according to the depth of the planting cormes. The flower lasts 24 to 48 hours. The leaf is linear, light green to dark green, and a clearer, greyish-green central vein. The leaves grow throughout the vegetative cycle (even in winter under the snow), and can reach up to 50 cm in height.
In Quebec, flowers show their nose in mid-October. They are harvested as soon as they are out and have completed their training. It is not necessary to wait until they are completely open to pick them up. The flowers live from 24 to 48 hours. The leaf is linear, traversed by a lighter central vein and greyish-greenish. Leaf growth continues even in winter under the snow. They can reach up to 50cm in height. The leaves turn yellow towards the end of June before falling into a summer dormancy.
Saffron grows very well. In Quebec, snow will serve as insulation to allow leaf growth to continue to -15 ° C. Scratching under the snow you can see the green foliage. We choose a sunny ground on a well-drained soil of light texture. It is planted from August to mid-September. Bury the bulbs, flat side, 20-30 cm deep and with a distance of 10-15 cm. Crocus sativus lives well with a pH of 6-7 and does not require watering. A little in September if the weather is very dry. We can easily pot our bulbs. In well-drained soil, plant at 15-20 cm with a spacing of about 10 cm on each side. Leave your pots outside and around September 20 you can put them inside on the edge of a window. Do not put a plate underneath, NEVER soak the soil. Water only if needed. You must remember that saffron grows in arid countries where very little rain is received in a year.
4 to 6 weeks later the flowers appear as if by magic. Pick in the morning, when the dew is evaporated and before spreading the flower it is even better. You will be charmed by this one, as soon as it will point the end of its nose.
This step involves removing the pistil from the flower. You can cut the flower and remove the pistil with your nails or small scissors. Cut the red part and keep your pistil complete with its three stigmas.
This last step is the most important and delicate. We suggest drying your pistils quickly in an oven at 30-50 ° C for 20-30 minutes. Saffron must lose 80% of its moisture, by weighing it fresh and dried you will be able to calculate this ratio. For a small amount do dry it in a ventilated place away from light until they become stiff, almost brittle and a blood red beef.
The saffron is protected from light and moisture in a glass container to preserve its aroma. Saffron must be matured at least one month before consumption. If you are patient you will get the maximum of its aroma and flavor in the summer following the harvest. Under good conditions it will keep for 3 years.
How to cook it
Saffron needs time to release its aromas. The saffron does not cook, it is macerated for a long time in a cold liquid, warm, hot or in the alcohol. The filaments are incorporated and macerated at the end of the recipe. It is recommended to macerate 24 hours in advance, but if your time is shorter, crush the pistils before brewing and you will discover the aromas and flavor in less time.You are now responsible for a treasure The red gold, the most precious spice in the world.