Everything about saffron: saffron, which is known as the flower of health, the king of spices and red gold, is the most valuable plant in Iran and its main origin is the slopes of Alvand. The planting of saffron in Iran goes back to the years before Christ and it is spread in very low rainfall areas that have cold winters and hot summers.
Saffron with the scientific name of Crocus Sativus belongs to the Iridaceae family. It is a strong plant with a height of approximately 30 cm, which has long green leaves like leeks. Its underground stem consists of two bulbs. These onions are hard and round and fleshy and covered with thin brown membranes. Purple saffron flowers are regular and consist of a long tube that leads to three petals and sepals.
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Botany of saffron
The special features of this product include low need for water, long product shelf life, low volume and weight, no need for heavy and expensive agricultural machinery, 4-7 years of exploitation in one planting time, and the ability to attract a lot of labor on the one hand and on the other hand, the expanding food, pharmaceutical and industrial uses have increased the price of this product day by day and the development of its cultivation.
Suitable soil for growing saffron
Since saffron onion stays in the ground for a relatively long time (5-7 years). The soil should be light or a combination of sand and clay so that the onion can withstand specific regional conditions in addition to providing food.
Saffron does not give a good crop in the land that has rubble or weeds or organic matter that has not rotted. The soil that covers the saffron onion should be light and a combination of different salts. Because the saffron onion should live in that soil for 5-7 years and it should not be a heavy soil that destroys it, for example, a combination of sand and clay which is composed of both good nutrients and during this time the onion grows well, which can resist climate and regional changes, it is suitable for the growth and development of onions.
Therefore, in order for the onion to grow as well as possible and finally harvest a good crop of your saffron, use fertile and drained land instead of salty and poor land, keep in mind that this land must be without trees and mountain canopy. The ingredients of this soil are a combination of sand, clay, lime and loam.
This land must be calcareous and its pH should be between 7 and 98. Be sure to weed this land from weeds before starting cultivation. Also clear the ground of rubble. In addition, there should not be organic materials in this land that have not yet been decomposed, because the presence of these factors will make you not face a good product.
Suitable weather for planting saffron
Saffron is a tropical plant and it grows well in places with moderate climate and hot, dry and sunny summers and relatively mild autumn and winter, and it is possible to plant saffron in these areas. It should be noted that this issue may not be true in all conditions because it is possible that the plant will adapt to the environment in such a way that in Hamadan, which is among the cold climate cities of Iran, saffron cultivation and planting has given satisfactory results.
Saffron onion is not active in summer, its awakening and activity period is from around November to May, and with the beginning of the hot season, its leaves turn yellow and dry, and the onion goes to sleep, so warm and dry land is a good place to grow it. In general, it is better to know that the temperature factor is one of your most important priorities for choosing a city to cultivate saffron, because the maximum temperature accepted by this plant should be between 35 and 40 degrees Celsius.
One of the other important factors is to consider the height of the city above sea level, because the best condition for a good saffron cultivation is estimated at an altitude of 1300 to 2300 meters above sea level.
Land for planting saffron
Saffron is one of the most valuable plants in nature, which has been cultivated since the past in some parts of our country, especially in the southern regions of Khorasan. Among the agricultural plants of Iran, it is the most suitable plant for intensive cultivation in the remote and poor parts of the country.
In preparing the land for its planting, it is necessary to pay special attention and care, first, in the autumn or winter, the desired land is deeply plowed. If the conditions are not suitable or the access to the tractor is not possible, plowing can be done at the end of spring or early July.
Since saffron does not produce seeds, it can only be propagated through corms. From mid-August to autumn, depending on the region (before the ice breaker starts), they remove the corm from the desired fields or procure it from suitable places. After preparing the land and adding animal manure, plant corms at a depth of 15 to 20 cm. In this case, 2 to 6 tons of corms are needed to plant one hectare of curry saffron.
The distance between the heaps is 30 x 30 and in each heap 1 to 3 onions in light cultivation, 5 to 7 onions in medium cultivation and 7 to 15 onions in dense cultivation can be used, in which case the life of the saffron field is different.
Saffron has very low water requirements and needs 7 irrigations per year. Also, this requirement is when other crops do not need water. The first irrigation after planting the crop is very important. This irrigation should be adjusted so that the weather is not too hot, because first the leaves turn green and then the flowers appear, which will make it difficult to harvest the flowers.
Normally, after the first watering of the saffron field, the flowers emerge from the soil earlier than the leaves. The second irrigation is 35 days after the first irrigation. Weeding and fertilizing (especially manure) should be done during the same period of dormancy. The last irrigation of the saffron field is done around the middle of May, after which the summer (dormancy) period of saffron begins.
Harvesting saffron flowers
Depending on the depth of planting the pods and soil texture, its flowers will bloom within one to two weeks after the first watering. Saffron flowers are harvested early in the morning and usually together, then outside the field, the stigmas are separated from the other parts of the flower. After the flowers have grown, there is a maximum of 3 to 4 days to harvest the crop. Usually, the withdrawal period lasts 20 days.
In the mechanized cultivation of saffron, the land is deeply plowed with a ploughshare in the fall of the year before planting. In the spring, after the spring rains stop, the soil is cleared of weeds by doing moderate plowing while breaking the soil. In August or September, after spreading 40-80 tons of animal manure and 200 kg of ammonium phosphate, the land is plowed and prepared for planting saffron.
The best time to harvest the flower for the sake of the quality, aroma and color of saffron is very early in the morning and before the buds open. Harvesting saffron flowers or buds requires a lot of patience and precision. The operation of the flower picking is that the flower picker takes the tip of the bud and pulls out the flower.
Immediately after separating the saffron, the drying operation takes place, which is usually done in three ways:
The best method for drying, which is inexpensive and does not take much time, is to build 4 metal bases with a height of one meter, which have 3 or 4 floors with a distance of 20 centimeters from each other. The floors should be made of net material and portable. By placing 4 stands next to the heater and using high heat and using a ceiling or table fan, dry saffron quickly.
Traditional method: the stigma separated from the flower is placed in the shade on a surface to gradually dry. In ancient times and sometimes nowadays, it is dried in the sunlight, which is unprincipled and reduces the coloring power, and also increases the possibility of contamination with foreign substances, dust, and has no economic value.
Testing method (sieve and heater); In this drying method, some wet saffron is poured into sieve-shaped containers whose bottom is made of silk net and placed at a distance of about 50 cm from heat sources that may be electric or gas, without smoke and odor, and after drying it is placed in closed containers.
Storage of saffron
Completely dried saffron should be kept away from light and moisture. Saffron should be kept in a dull color or metal container and at a moderate temperature. Due to the fact that saffron essential oil (fragrant material) is volatile, in case of improper storage, its essential oil will evaporate over time and its medicinal effects and taste will decrease and its quality will be lost.
It is recommended not to use plastic containers, especially used nylons, to store saffron and try not to damage or break the saffron.
Uses and therapeutic properties of saffron
According to the law of the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA), saffron is allowed as a natural colorant and there is no limit to its consumption as a natural aroma and flavor. It is best used in the preparation of food coloring and as a spice. From a medicinal point of view, in traditional medicine, it causes abortion by affecting female sex hormones.
In modern medicine, it is used to treat insomnia, cancer, flatulence, seizures and depression. Consuming saffron drink strengthens memory. Its flowers are used for dyeing wool and silk due to the production of anthocyanin pigments.
Saffron, due to its active compounds such as Crocin, Crocetin and other types of carotenoids that are present in saffron, can reduce the tumor state of tissues and has anti-cancer properties and can reduce the level of fat in the blood serum and prevent hypolymphemic state. It also increases tissue deoxygenation and can significantly prevent disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Saffron in the world
After Iran, which produces 81% of the world’s saffron, saffron cultivation is popular in countries such as Greece, Spain, Italy, Bangladesh, Morocco, India, etc.
Frequently asked questions about saffron
Why is saffron so expensive?
It is very expensive because it is a very labor intensive product. Crocus sativa saffron plant flowers in autumn. Each flower has three tiny thread-like stigmas in the center. The Arabs brought the spice to Spain and now Spain is the largest producer of saffron in the world.
What are the benefits of saffron?
Saffron is a powerful spice that is rich in antioxidants. This drug has been touted for health benefits, such as improved mood, libido and sexual performance, as well as reduced PMS symptoms and weight loss. Best of all, it’s generally safe for most people and easy to add to your diet.
What does saffron taste like?
Saffron has a sweet and floral taste. It is earthy and has a variety of flavors. On the other hand, saffron with a bitter taste, metal or plastic are often cheap imitations of this unique spice and should be avoided.
Is saffron good for vision?
Clinical studies have shown that it is anti-inflammatory and beneficial for macular degeneration.
Is saffron harmful to the kidneys?
As a safe substance, saffron can increase renal blood flow and can play a urinary role in the diagnosis and treatment of many diseases such as glomerulonephritis or the localization of antigen-antibody complexes in the kidney globule.
Is saffron useful for arthritis?
Saffron acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and helps reduce the symptoms of arthritis. Studies have shown that crocin, which is one of the main components of saffron, has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-proliferative properties and is effective in people who suffer from joint pain.
Who should not use saffron?
Saffron may cause mood swings in people with bipolar disorder. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use saffron. When saffron is used as a supplement, it may cause problems for people taking blood pressure medication or blood thinners.
Does saffron make you sleepy?
When taken by mouth: Saffron is most likely safe to eat. Saffron is probably safe when taken as a medicine for up to 26 weeks. Some possible side effects include dry mouth, anxiety, agitation, drowsiness, low mood, sweating, nausea or vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, appetite changes, hot flashes, and headache.
Does saffron expire?
Just like almost any spice, saffron is best used as soon as possible for optimal flavor and potency. And as long as you take good care of the spice, it will last for months or even years. If there is no date on the package, you can assume that it will retain most of its flavor for 2-3 years.
Is saffron good for the skin?
Saffron is good for the skin because it contains many vitamins and antioxidants that are good for the skin. It is anti-inflammatory and soothes the skin. It is antifungal and can be used to treat acne. Saffron, which is known to lighten the skin, is also used as an ingredient in many beauty products.