The saffron crocus is propagated by way of a rounded corm (much like a bulb). The authentic Saffron spice comes from the stigma of the flower of the Saffron corm. Three flowers are produced from the corm, which is essentially a tuber that gives rise to the saffron. When crocus corms are in the dormant stage, they are purchased and planted in late summer or early fall, when they produce small crocus flowers right away.
In a beautiful blue or purple flower, there is an exotic spice known as a stigma with gold color and looks like a fragile thread. A flower will produce, on average, three stigmas, producing three saffron strands. A few weeks after the flowering stage, the plant grows thin, dark green leaves with strap-like attachments before multiplying. Fresh flowers yield an ounce of stigmas for every pound of saffron flowers. In drying the stigmas, 70% – 80% of the mass and weight are removed, leaving a minimal amount of spice. This is one of the fundamental reasons why the price is so high. Additionally, saffron has also proven helpful in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and industrial applications beyond its culinary uses.
Growing Saffron Hydroponically
Despite its difficulty, saffron can be grown and maintained. Growing saffron hydroponically is probably more manageable and more maintenance-free than growing it conventionally. You can also do growing saffron indoors for a profit with bulbs or corms, which can be obtained from stores.
First-time corm buyers should be aware that, like many flowering bulbs, the corms come in various sizes ranging from tiny (0.6 grams), which would be a nonflowering variety requiring an extra season of growth, to massive (24 grams).
Despite their lower price, small corms may not bear flowers the first year or a fewer yield of saffron and daughter bulbs after flowering. A typical hydroponic plant is about 15 grams in weight, with a diameter of over an inch. Dry and dormant, the corms appear in a state of readiness for planting.
You can plant them inside a hydroponic system throughout the year since you can determine and manipulate the growing environment, which affects the growth of the saffron plant. Hydroponic flower farms also follow this.
Planting, flowering, and harvesting can take place in approximately 45 days. As each cycle ends, you are either required to grow new corms or wait for existing ones to complete their vegetative and dormant phases before reflowering and multiplying.
During the non-productive vegetative and dormant period, it takes approximately nine months for new corms to sprout. This method makes the most financial sense.
Alternatively, you can keep several sets of corms and their daughter corms ready simultaneously. While one set is in the dormant state, the others are producing. It is essential to store dormant corms in a dry place, plant them out in the fall when the weather permits, and then they will sprout the following spring again. To gain enough energy to produce the next season’s crop, they must enter their vegetative stage after breaking their dormancy phases. Approximately five to ten daughter corms are produced for every healthy parent corm to produce another yield the following summer.
Growing and Nurture
For growing saffron in hydroponic systems, drip trays, DWCs, and NFTs are commonly used. In general, pin trays are temporary growing chambers in which bulbs are anchored, and roots are growing. During the root expansion, these chambers provide support. You can use various growing media such as perlite, vermiculite, perlite, and coco coir. Starting saffron bulbs with Oasis Cubes is easy. Plants must grow in loosely textured media that will allow them to expand their roots and grow roots and support a full-grown flowering plant.
Plants that grow with bulbs or corms thrive on lots of potassium and phosphorus for growth and flower production. Nitrogen is not needed in excess. The corms/seeds should be supplied with nutrients at a concentration of less than half strength if you choose this method; hydroponic nutrients are not strictly necessary for germination. Some hydroponic growers like to experiment with a fresh solution and create their own, assuming they are comfortable dealing with some plant losses during the process.
With hydroponic saffron, you don’t need to pay much attention to the plant. The only thing you need to concentrate on is germination and flowering. Plants are no longer valuable after they have flowered. There is no point in harvesting the stigmas once they have bloomed. A hydroponic nutrient solution that promotes flowering should be the one that is specially formulated.
Therefore, you can purchase bloom formulations anywhere – remember to dilution them according to the manufacturer’s instructions. EC meters should be used regularly, as well as pH meters, to determine nutrient values. Electrical Conductivity values of 1.4 and pH levels of 5.5 encourage flowering.
One of the advantages of indoor hydroponics is that the grower can control the temperature. It is best for flowering to be between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit for the daytime temperature and for the nighttime temperature to be no lower than 53 degrees Fahrenheit.
Flower drop occurs if the temperature gets too warm, and dormancy is caused if the temperature gets too cold. Thus, the indoor grow room should be designed to provide the warm, dry conditions of summer to promote growth, followed by damp and cooler conditions to promote flowering.
It is recommended that your plants be exposed to 14 to 16 hours of natural light a day to induce flowering. A reduced daytime length is often observed post-flowering, between 12 and 14 hours. If you want your hydroponic setup to be successful, you need to make sure it’s located in an area with an adequate light source. Artificial lights can
Harvest and Storage
After planting, the corms usually begin to flower quite quickly; within a couple of weeks, you can see the first flower buds emerging. Three to five days after they are planted, the flowers will be completely opened and ready for picking. It is essential to pluck or cut each bloom from the plant as it begins to bloom so you can process the flower further.
Saffron is made from a red or dark red colored threadlike part of the corm flower called the stigma, which forms the spice when dried. It also contains three golden, shorter, broader anthers coated with pollen that should be discarded. You can remove saffron stigmas by pulling all the petals off the flower and then clipping the red strands near the base of the petals. It will be necessary to place these items in a drying rack before storing them.
The delicate strands of saffron may be placed on a dry paper towel and allowed to air dry in a well-ventilated area. It is easy for strands as well as your efforts to blow away with the slightest breeze. Due to its small size, saffron dries quickly and can usually be stored in glass jars for more extended storage if stored airtight. To prevent any further moisture, you can use a small pack of silicon desiccants. Inadequately dried saffron invites mold, fungi, so supplementary air-drying time is recommended if the humidity levels are high.