Cultivation and harvesting of saffron

Cultivation and harvesting of saffron

The cultivation of saffron needs an extreme climate; hot and dry weather in summer and cold in winter.

The land must be dry, calcareous, aired, flat and without trees. Attributes that the Meseta of Castilla-La Mancha has, which has made it one of the most important production areas in the world.

The soil must be equilibrated in organic material in order to avoid risks of erosion, and have some depth that allows the water to drain so that the bulb is not damaged.

La planta de azafrán

The sowing takes place in the months of June and July. The bulbs are placed in ridges of about 20 cm. depth. The distance between the bulbs should be of 10 cm.

The sowing of bulbs is a very hard job because it is done by hand, and forces you to walk in a bent position for hundreds of yards. A mule follows the sower with a roman plough to cover the ridges.

The harvesting takes place between the end of October-beginning of November. The rose of saffron blooms at dawn and should stay the least possible time in the plant because it withers quickly and the stigmas loose color and aroma. This is why they are gathered between dawn and 10 a.m.

Once the flowers are gathered, stigmas are separated from the rest of the flower. The fact that more than 85.000 flowers are needed to obtain just one kilo of saffron gives us an idea of how hard this work is.

The stigmas of saffron have a high level of moisture, so it is necessary to dry them for its good preservation. This is the process of roasting, in which the stigmas get it definitive aspect: bright red, rigid and without wrinkles.

After the process of roasting, the stigmas of saffron would have 1/5 of their original size. This means that for one kg of raw stigmas we will obtain 200 g of saffron ready for consumption.

For its perfect preservation, saffron is stored in big wooden trunks lined with metal plate inside protecting it from heat, cold and specially moisture.