a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Saffron harvest 2017


I’ve looked forward to my saffron every October since I brought my six gift corms back from our visit to the Limousin in 2008.  I planted them as an experiment, as I had never seen saffron flowering before, and I was doubtful that I would succeed.

If any one has a similar climate to here, and a fancy to try growing saffron then I can attest to the pleasure of harvesting the short lived crop.  There is no need to start with so few bulbs as I did because the bulbs are not expensive.  Just make sure you are getting Crocus sativus and not the autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale) which is toxic.

The one constraint is that you must be at home at the beginning of October when they first push through the ground and start flowering.  This year I gathered 78 flowers on the 5 October then 96 the next day, after that the numbers dropped  to the twenties and have just petered out to single flowers in the last few days.

Each day I pick out the three red pistils and put them on a plate to air dry.  I am pleased with my saffron harvest this year.  I cannot weigh it as I do not have a scale that is accurate enough for such a light weight but you can get an idea of how much I gathered from the picture of it on the dinner plate.

On the 15 October I was busy and it was 8 o’clock in the evening before I had time to gather the flowers.

I had just time to stop myself squashing a bumble bee on the first flower that I reached for. The bee did not budge and I carefully picked up all the flowers from the plants around it and I did not disturb it at all.  It remained fast asleep!  It is nice to see that it is not just me that appreciates the saffron flowers.

Author: afrenchgarden

Born in Scotland I have lived in England, Iran, USA and Greece. The house and land was bought twelve years ago in fulfilment of the dream of living in France that my Francophile husband nurtured. We had spent frequent holidays in France touring the more northerly parts and enjoying the food, scenery, architecture and of course gardens. However, we felt that to retire in France and enjoy a more clement climate than we currently had in Aberdeen we would need to find somewhere south of the river Loire but not too south to make returning to visit the UK onerous. The year 2000 saw us buying our house and setting it up to receive us and the family on holidays. The garden was more a field and we were helped by my son to remove the fencing that had separated the previous owners’ goats, sheep and chickens. We did inherit some lovely old trees and decided to plant more fruit trees that would survive and mature with the minimum of care until we took up permanent residence. The move took place in 2006 and the love hate relation with the “garden” started. There was so much to do in the house that there was little energy left for the hard tasks in the garden. It was very much a slow process and a steep learning curve. Expenditures have been kept to a minimum. The majority of the plants have been cuttings and I try to gather seeds wherever I can. The fruit trees have all been bought but we have tender hearts and cannot resist the little unloved shrub at a discount price and take it as a matter of honour to nurse it back to health. This year I have launched my Blog hoping to reach out to other gardeners in other countries. My aim is to make a garden for people to enjoy, providing shady and sunny spots with plants that enjoy living in this area with its limestone based subsoil and low rainfall in a warm summer. Exchanging ideas and exploring mutual problems will enrich my experience trying to form my French garden.

29 thoughts on “Saffron harvest 2017

  1. It’s interesting that your Saffron crocus started a lot earlier than mine, Amelia. It is only this week that I have noticed the first flowers. Maybe it is due to the very hot dry year. Mine are now a bit hidden under the mutabilis roses, every year I say I will move them and don’t manage to do it – hopefully this year as it would be nice to see them. I don’t usually harvest mine as I still have sufficient from when my husband visited Iran and he bought me back too much! But in future it will be lovely to have enough to use during the year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a good husband to bring back too much saffron. I hope he did not forget the lemon coated pistachios and dried white mulberries 🙂 I agree the hot dry summer has delayed your saffron this year. You made me think that because they are such lovely flowers a few patches here and there would look good at this time of year. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great saffron harvest, Amelia. Loved that you left sleeping bumblebee lie. Our region apparently has very good saffron. It’s probably something I could try, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It doesn’t look like my saffron is going to flower this year — too dry. The visit by the local heritage society to a grower was cancelled this year as it was scheduled for early November (normal flowering time here) and the bulbs flowered a month early. Our village has a saffron fair every year which is well attended, and saffron has been grown and sold here since medieval times.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A sleeping bee! How sweet. A precious harvest.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a great harvest! I was given some saffron by a friend who visited Dubai… I have to admit though that I do not like the smell or taste of it. Hope you enjoy using yours though!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Picking your own helps you understand why it’s so expensive, I’m sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do understand why it must be a difficult commercial crop. You have to hand pick them as more flowers will be produced by the same corms, so that is a lot of bending. Then the stigmas must be recovered by hand which is time consuming. At least the stigmas dry easily. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow! I have never read about anyone actually harvesting it. Although I really like the ornamental autumn crocus, it does not naturalize like is is purported to do. The saffron crocus did happen to naturalize in my garden. Mine has much more foliage than yours does. You know, they are actually more compatible with the forest landscape than the other crocus are.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had always thought that the Saffron crocus liked the sunshine although they have been grown in the U.K. giving rise to place names like Saffron Waldon. Sunny days always bring out a flush of the flowers. The foliage thickens out after the flowers have passed and once it dies back I will break up and move some of the larger groups. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Yes, I believe there used to be vast fields of the crocus grown in East Anglia in days gone by.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Never have I seen the saffron in its original state. Learned something new today

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wow how lucky you are …well done for giving it a try. Just like gold dust… Sue

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Looks like you had a great harvest, I’ve got a couple of hundred on my allotment and around 1000 in a flower bed at home. Unfortunately I didn’t get a single flower this year haven’t got a clue why, hopefully next year will be better.


    • You did not say what country you are in. My saffron have flowered annually. I think they like plenty of sun after they flower so that they can store plenty of food in their bulbs. The greens of my saffron are still doing well so perhaps they do well with a mild post flowering season. Amelia


  12. someone has suggested Epsom Salt on the leaves in March before they die back if you didn’t get any flowers (I didn’t this year). Is this true?


    • Epsom salts are basically magnesium sulphate and could be hoped to be absorbed by the leaves. I have no information to suggest that the leaves would absorb the magnesium, and then the plants would have to be suffering from a deficiency in magnesium before it would be helpful. I would rather think that the corms were perhaps not mature enough and did not benefit from enough sun and rain to allow them to flower. Better luck next year? Amelia


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