Buying saffron bulbs: useful tips

If you want to start growing saffron, you will find a first rock: buying bulbs . The flower of this plant is sterile: for those who cultivate it, it is essential to obtain the precious stigmas, which are dried to obtain the spice, but do not produce seeds. Precisely because there are no saffron seeds, the plant spreads by multiplication of bulbs, which takes place every year.

For this reason, those who want to undertake the cultivation of crocus sativus will have to buy the bulbs from nurseries or other saffron farms. It is usually best to buy bulbs directly from an Italian grower, ideally from a well-known company.

I called the purchase of the bulbs “rock” for two reasons, the first is the high cost bulbs have, especially with the current market demand: this is one of the biggest investments made by those who start a saffron. Second, it is not a foregone conclusion to buy healthy and productive bulbs , in fact, it is very easy to run into problems. I think for this reason it may be useful to give some tips to those considering such a purchase.

Contents [Ocultar]

  • The size of the bulbs

    • Advice on which bulbs to buy

  • The origin of bulbs

  • Precautions when buying

    • Recognize healthy bulbs

    • Tips for choosing the right buyer

    • Pay attention to transport and storage

  • How much do saffron bulbs cost

    • Buy by number or buy by weight


bulb size

The size of the saffron bulb is very important and is a key factor to consider when buying. In fact, the larger a bulb, the more productive it can be expected to be. Although not the only factor involved, the number of flowers produced is highly dependent on the diameter of the crocus. This is why large bulbs are much more expensive.

Speaking of dimensions, we need to clarify, since we can refer to different types of measurements: diameter or circumference . Rather, weight is a measure less used in the single bulb, as it is too variable with respect to humidity. The diameter is measured with a caliper, while the circumference with a string or a tape measure, geometry teaches us that the circumference is equal to the diameter multiplied by Pi Greco (a value of approximately 3.14). Sometimes there is confusion and it happens that we find for example “caliber 10” bulbs, in reality in this case the number 10 is relative to the circumference, the corresponding caliber would be 3/3.5 cm.

Generally in the trade we find this type of bulbs:

  • Bulbs about 2 cm in diameter or less (circumference less than 6/7 ): they are called ” mezzanine » very small bulbs, rarely producing flowers in the first year. The purchase of this type of bulbs requires patience, because they must be planted, fertilizing them well, so that they swell from year to year. A significant production will only be obtained after two years of cultivation, so the price of these small saffron bulbs is very low.
  • Bulbs about 2.5 cm in diameter (circumference around 8 ): they are bulbs which generally produce one or two flowers each the first year, if they are well cultivated they give satisfaction in the following years.
  • Bulbs about 3 cm in diameter (circumference around 9/10 ): generally this size produces 2 to 4 flowers per cormorant, which allows a good harvest from the first year.
  • Bulbs with a diameter of about 3.5 cm (circumference of approx. 10+ ): bulbs of this size are considered large and 3/6 blooms can be expected each.
  • Bulbs over 4 cm in diameter (circumference of approx. 12cm ). They are very productive bulbs, more than 5 flowers each, normally they are not for sale because whoever has them keeps them for himself. If you buy them, keep in mind that they must be well fertilized, otherwise they may split into several small bulbs, losing their size.
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Advice on which bulbs to buy

If you have patience, a good option may be to take small bulbs , which will produce well within two years. Of course, the first year will not be very satisfactory, but you will save big on your purchase. It is best to avoid Crocus sativus bulbs under 2 cm, ideally between 2 and 2.5 cm.

To buy and 3 cm saffron bulbs Instead, it is usually the best ratio between price and productivity: these are bulbs that are already in flower the first season, although they give the best in the second year.

However, buy large bulbs This is usually inconvenient, as the prices in the market are usually an exaggerated expense. If you find an opportunity that naturally suits you better: grab it.

The origin of bulbs

Saffron bulbs can be Italian or foreign, on the web you can often find offers of Dutch bulbs which are the most offered in garden centers. Sometimes you can also find bulbs grown in Spain, France or Greece. Among the Italian bulbs, the most famous are those from Sardinia and Abruzzo. In Abruzzo they come mainly from the plateau of Navelli, in the province of L$0027Aquila, while in Sardinia the traditional production area is San Gavino Monreale. Tuscany, Umbria and Marche are also regions where saffron plantations are widespread.

Choosing bulbs from Holland allows you to buy at much lower prices than equivalent Italian bulbs. Despite this purchase advice national production bulbs , pick them up directly at the farm. In my experience, growing Dutch bulbs produced in nurseries has always given very poor yields.

purchase precautions

The purchase of bulbs is a very delicate moment, to avoid disappointment I try to give you some suggestions. The first is that if you are about to face a sustained investment, buying thousands of saffron bulbs, I advise you to diversify your purchase , choosing at least two different suppliers. Bulbs purchased from different sources should never be mixed: it is best to plant in separate batches, so that any disease that spreads in one can be limited and does not spread to all the saffron plants.

Recognize healthy bulbs

Mushroom spores, like the dreaded Fusarium, aren’t necessarily visible to the naked eye, so even seemingly perfect bulbs can cause problems. The only way to be sure would be to know how the harvest was in the seller’s field.

One essential thing, however, is to buy well-dried bulbs If you find excessive moisture, it is better to reject them, because fungi proliferate when there is moisture. Bulbs showing rot or soft spots should be absolutely avoided: these are symptoms of persistent problems, which can easily spread throughout the saffron field.

Also cut or decapitated bulbs must be discarded for if they are not already ill, it is very probable that they will be attacked by the putrefaction which penetrates into their interior through the lesion.

Tips for choosing the right buyer

The ideal is to buy light bulbs italian farms that you have the opportunity to know: it means having more protection after the purchase, if you have problems with diseases. In any case, you should always check that the seller is in possession of the authorization ( nursery permit ), which guarantees that you apply good hygiene practices and that they are not improvised.

You only have to buy from those who pick the bulbs by hand, because those who use agricultural machinery like the modified potato quarry get bulbs that are often damaged and therefore less healthy.

Obviously the bulbs with organic certification are preferable, although knowing the producer, you can find small farms that, even without being certified, grow naturally.

Transport and storage maintenance

Normally crocus sativus bulbs are purchased during the summer as they are harvested in the spring and should be planted between July and September. This means that the bulbs are transported during the hottest months of the year.

Since this is living matter, the damage that can be caused by careless transport, in which crocodiles can remain on vehicles in the sun for many hours, should not be underestimated. For this I recommend, if possible, a purchase in the region or, in any case, to pick up the bulbs in person. Many saffron fields in Italy are in beautiful regions such as Sardinia, the Navelli plateau in Abruzzo, Umbria, Marche or Tuscany: this can be the occasion for a trip.

Storage before the plant is essential: it requires a poorly lit, non-humid and ventilated place. The bulbs should be placed in boxes, which can breathe from all sides, without overlapping too much in the box. It is best to check them periodically and remove any suspicious bulbs.

How much do saffron bulbs cost

The price of bulbs is very variable and depends on several factors. Dutch bulbs generally cost less, but I recommend avoiding them first. Cormorant diameter is a factor that affects cost: larger bulbs tend to be more expensive.

As with all things buying in bulk pays less, those who take a few bulbs to put in the garden should expect higher prices than those who make a substantial purchase to start a cash crop.

To give a very indicative price, I can say that medium size bulbs can cost between €0.20 and €0.60 each.

Buy by number or buy by weight

Saffron bulbs can be purchased by number or by weight. Large quantities are usually purchased by weight, while small plants are purchased by count. There is nothing better or worse, the choice is up to the seller. A kilo of bulbs corresponds to a variable number of saffron bulbs, depending on the size, in an average size there can be 50/60 bulbs in a kilo.

If you buy by the number, on the other hand, you must agree on the size and check that the bulbs are all of the required size. Buying by weight offers the advantage of not worrying too much about the diameter: once the cost per kilo or quintal has been agreed, in fact if the bulbs are small they will be more numerous, whereas if they are large they will will be fewer in number, partially compensating for the difference in size.

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