Saffron Crocus flowers feature purple cup-shaped blooms with stigmas in the center. The stigmas appear as bright orange threads, and it is this portion of the flower that is used as saffron, a seasoning used in a variety of dishes. Saffron is an expensive spice because it takes a lot of saffron crocus flowers to produce a substantial volume of the seasoning. Saffron is commonly used in entrées, desserts and breads.
Saffron crocus corms should be planted 4 inches deep and 4 inches apart. The flowers usually come up six to eight weeks after being planted, but sometimes they do not appear until the second fall. The blooms typically last approximately three weeks. The leaves may come up concurrently with the flowers, soon after the flowers, or the leaves may not emerge until the next spring season.
It is best to harvest saffron from saffron crocus flowers during the mid-morning hours, when the flowers have opened completely and are fresh. After carefully removing the stigmas by hand, each stigma must be dried in a warm place and then stored in a closed container. When using saffron in a dish, the saffron should be steeped in hot liquid for approximately 20 minutes. Both the stigmas and the liquid should be added to the dish near the beginning of the baking or cooking process.