Crocuses: The Source of Saffron
When do crocuses come out? When can I see saffron? Learn all there is to know about these delectable flowers that are so intertwined with one of the most popular spices in the world.
One of the earliest flowers to bloom in the spring are the crocuses. These small, colorful flowers can be found in many different colors, including yellow, white, pink, and purple. What many people don’t know is that the crocus is also the source of saffron. Saffron is a spice that is used in cooking, and it has a distinctive flavor and color. It’s worth looking for crocuses in your area so that you can enjoy this tasty spice firsthand!
What Is a Crocus?
A crocus is a small, spring-blooming flower in the iris family. There are many different types of crocuses, but most have showy flowers in shades of purple, blue, white, or yellow. They grow from corms (bulbs), and blooms can last for several weeks. Crocuses are often used in gardens and landscaping.
Crocuses, also known as crocus (plural: crocuses or croci) are a type of perennial flowering plants in the Iridaceae family (iris family), with about 100 species distributed across different regions. Crocus growes as low-growing plants with flower stems that remain below ground and produce relatively huge white, yellow, orange, or purple blooms before closing down. Many are grown for their flowers, which may be seen in the fall, winter, or spring.
Saffron, the bright orange flower of the crocus, has been used for millennia as a dye and spice. The dried stigma of Crocus sativus, an autumn-blooming species, is used to make saffron. It’s prized for its color and use as a pigment and dye. The country of Iran is the world’s leading producer of saffron. Crocuses are native to woodlands, scrubs, and meadows from sea level to high alpine tundra in the Mediterranean, through North Africa, central and southern Europe, the islands of the Aegean Sea, the Middle East, across Central Asia to Xinjiang in western China.
Crocuses can be grown from seed or from cormels formed on the corm, which develop into mature plants. They were introduced to Europe from Turkey in the 16th century and have become a valued ornamental blossoming plant.
Cultivation and Usage of Crocuses:
The genus’ economic value is largely dependent on a single species, Crocus sativus, which has been lost in the wild. C. sativus is cultivated for saffron, an orange-red by-product of its dried stigma, which is among the most expensive spices in the world. The global production of C. sativus plants is estimated at 205 tons. Saffron is derived from 180,000 stigmas from 60,000 flowers; it costs about $10,000 per kilogram (2.2 pounds) (2018). Modern saffron cultivation exists in Kashmir, Iran, Turkey, and the Mediterranean Basin.
Crocuses were observed in Turkish gardens in the early sixteenth century, collected from across the Ottoman Empire by visiting European botanists and explorers, including Pierre Belon who arrived in Istanbul in 1547. The first crocus to appear in the Netherlands, where crocuses were not native, were brought from Turkey by the Holy Roman Emperor’s ambassador to the Sublime Porte, Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq, in 1562.
What flower is the source of saffron?
Saffron is derived from a purple autumn flowering plant commonly known as the saffron crocus or saffron flower. Crocus sativus is native to Southwest Asia and the Mediterranean. But due to its long history of cultivation and harvesting for its fabled stigmas, it can be found in many parts of the world today. It’s still used throughout the world for various culinary and medicinal purposes.
Can you collect saffron from crocuses?
Yes! Collecting saffron from crocuses is definitely possible. They are a variety of the fall-blooming Crocus species and actually have the same flower structure—just different colored petals.