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Saffron Botany

Botany of Saffron Various Organs of Saffron Plant

Saffron with the scientific name Crocus Sativus L from Iridaceae family is an herbaceous, perennial, bulbous plant but without stem. Saffron corm and bulb is meaty and almost spherical shape with the diameter of 3 to 5 cm in brown color which is hidden under the soil. Each saffron corm produces six to nine thin leaves like the leaf of lawn grasses.

Saffron roots are of fibrous type which grow through base of the corms. Saffron flower is the first organ which appears in the early autumn. In the first cultivation year, due to the weakness and lack of full deployment of saffron bulbs in deep soil cultivation, saffron flower sprouts cannot grow enough. Even first-year leaves appear later than usual.

Saffron flower consist of three sepals and three petals both with the same violet color, so it is too difficult to diagnose them from each other. The number of stamens is three times and its length is twice the size of anther. Saffron anther is yellow.

Pistil is located in the central part of saffron flower with one ovary from which a thin style is emerged. Style is long and stretch type in pale yellow color which is ended to a transparent three-branch red-orange color stigma by the size of 2 to 3 cm. Three stigmas together with style, after drying constitute the commercial saffron.

Various Types of Saffron

Various Types of Saffro Iran saffron is usually classified into different shapes.
"Dokhtar Peech" saffron is considered as one of the terms which have been used in this field from many times ago. This saffron type has been comprised of stigma and style (saffron red part and saffron white or yellow color part). In Persian, it is called as "bunched saffron" while it is called as cluster saffron Grade No. 4 in Iran's standard term. This type of saffron is known as bunched and/or red & white saffron especially in overseas. As a matter of fact, red part at this type of saffron should be measured between 70- to 75% while its root or konch part is measured approx. 25 to 30%.

"Sargol" saffron and/or in common term "Sar Ghalam" and in Iran's standard term, "Cut Cluster" are new names which were came to being later. The said new names of saffron produced from bunched saffron. The procedures of saffron production were as follows:
Its yellow-color parts were separated with scissor and then through the application of static (stationary) electricity. Then, completely clean red-color saffron was obtained which is called "All-Red" saffron in English term and is similar to the saffron which is called as Cut Coupe. Later, the saffron which its red part should be separated from saffron flower (only a meager amount of saffron yellow color) with the aim of producing saffron was called "Poushali".
Since this type of saffron was of leavened or pad like type, it was called as "Poushali".
With the coordination made in this regard, it was envisioned that this is inappropriate name and a suitable name should be selected for this type of saffron. According to Iran's standard term, this type of saffron is called as "Cluster" saffron.
Each type of the above-mentioned saffron may be of first, second grade and/or low-quality saffron type.
None of the above mentioned saffron types can be preferred to one another. It is obvious that tinting, power of coloring, (degree of crosin) and quality of saffron entitled "Dasteh" is lower than any other saffron types to some extent. Since this type of saffron is dried with delay and will lose some part of its coloring power in the long run of drying process, it enjoys low quality.
Unlike results of scientific studies made in this regard and according to the carried out analysis, some people believe that bunched saffron and even konch saffron type enjoy more fragrance is completely mistaken. For, origin of effective materials of saffron (crosin, picro-crosi and safranal) especially crosin are in its stigma part and the mentioned materials have conveyed to there from stigma as a result of movement of herbal tissue. Not only the very yellow konch enjoys remarkable amount of them, as compared with stigma, but also crosin extant in it is zero as well. Since there is possibility of absorption of more humidity from stigma in terms of type of its herbal tissue, it seems to be more fragranced than any other types of saffron.
If Sargol saffron is separated from bunched saffron type, "root or white part", called konch or white saffron in Persian and "white or style" in Europe, is separated. In fact, the separated part can not be called as saffron. This material is called saffron konch and does not include definition of saffron as well.

Cultivating and Harvesting Saffron

Saffron is of the plant which its reproduction and accrual is made through corm.
After initial cultivating and planting saffron seed, it produces saffron for a period of 7 to 10 years at large automatically. Saffron cultivation stage is merely made at the first year. In the following years, only caring and harvesting stages of saffron is made as well. Saffron requires fertile soil, usually sandy and gravel, and also animal fertilizer (2 to 3 weeks before planting of 25 to 30 tons per each ha land area).

Saffron Reproduction:

Reproduction of saffron is made through establishing new corms which are produced of mother corm. Saffron corm remains inactive and stagnant on the earth at summer months and starts its re-growth at the end of summer season as well. According to the extant reports, numerous types of known saffron are cultivated in various countries.

Harvesting Saffron:

Saffron flower is usually harvested in mid autumn season. The common method of harvesting saffron flower is made manually (with the help of hand).
Shortly after the first irrigating, saffron juvenile starts growing. Saffron flowers mostly appear in South Khorasan as of early Aban (October) up by early Azar (November) months. As soon as the first saffron flower is appeared, harvesting product is started. The time of harvesting saffron strictly hinges on environmental and farming condition. Saffron flower harvesting operation on a farm will last maximum 20 days at large.

Forwarding and Transporting Saffron:

The following points should be considered while transporting and forwarding saffron flower:
  • Transporting saffron flower should be made in such a way that safeguards flowers from mechanical damages and environmental contaminations.
  • Exceeding accumulation and compressing flower at the time of transporting and forwarding should be avoided.
  • Containers for transporting saffron flower should be put on each other appropriately with the aim of preventing flower from being damaged mechanically.
  • If transport time of saffron flower is lengthened, use appropriate coverage on flower with the aim of safeguarding flower against sunlight and contamination.
Accelerated separation of saffron is effective in improvement of quality of produced product.
Temperature of refrigerator is the most appropriate temperature for keeping stigmas at the time of separation up to drying operation.


Fresh saffron should be dried for keeping it in a long period. Drying method will determine final value and quality of saffron. Specific fragrance of saffron is produced at the time of drying operation as a result of hydrolization of compounds of picro-crosin (main agent for flavoring saffron) and freeing saffranal (agent for fragrance of saffron).
In traditional Iranian method, saffron was put on shade and/or warm and dry room for a period of approx. 8 to 12 days at large. In this method, there exits the possibility of growth and reproduction of microorganisms and increase of contamination and also reduction of tinting (power of coloring) as a result of activity of enzymes due to long time needed for drying saffron.
In Spanish method, saffron is put on a sieve with silk netted with the average temperature of approx. 50 to 60 degrees of Celsius for a period of 30 to 60 minutes, being exposed to indirect temperature. In this method, saffron will have more color as compared with the traditional Iranian method and/or drying at the open-air space. In addition, probability of fungus contamination is decreased to a great extent at this method.

Saffron is hit consumer market in different forms:

  • Saffron entitled "Sargol"
  • Saffron entitled "Dasteh"
  • Saffron entitled "Poushali"
  • Saffron powder.

Keeping Method of Saffron:

After drying and cooling operation, saffron is put in appropriate containers. Saffron may be packed in glass containers, polyethylene packets 9Lower Density), polyethylene canisters (High Density) and/or three-layer aluminum packs.
After packing operation, saffron should be put inside pasteboards with the aim of preventing from being compressed.
Saffron should be put inside wooden or metal crates at the time of transporting and carrying it.
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