Saffron Crocus – Identification

Q: I heard that the very expensive saffron spice is just the stamen of the crocus bulb. Can I collect them from my garden each spring and use them in my cooking or will I poison myself?

A: It’s correct that saffron comes from crocus, but only from fall crocus, Crocus sativus, not spring crocus, Crocus vernus.

The female part of the flower (the stigma) is what you’ll harvest each year. You can plant fall crocus bulbs in early summer and wait for them to bloom in September.

Crocus bulbs like a bit of shade in the afternoon and fast-draining soil. A 1:1 mix of pea gravel and soil conditioner should work well.

Be sure to buy Crocus sativus, not Colchicum autumnale, which is called “Autumn Crocus”. Colchicum is very toxic!

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