Oregon State University Extension Service

Flavorless saffron?

We just finished harvesting our first good crop of saffron crocus from our yard. We often get many plants but only a few flowers. This year, we got about 50 blooms over a few weeks.

After drying for a few days, we made some risotto with 1 cup of rice and about 70 stigmas (about half our crop) but couldn't taste anything. The two of us even tried small sips of the yellow "tea" but it just tasted like warm water. Now we can't tell if there's something wrong with our garden, our tastebuds or the supposedly strong flavor of saffron is over-hyped. Please help!

In case you were wondering, we have bought saffron from the grocery store before and couldn't taste that either, but we have learned that counterfeiting is not uncommon so we were never sure. The few times we have had saffron rice from restaurants, it just tastes like buttered rice to us.

Your experiment growing saffron sounds interesting. It is not commonly grown as a spice here in the Pacific Northwest and I'm not able to find any information about the lack of flavor. See Nebraska Extension's article on Saffron crocus. Or download a PDF from Washington State Extension on Grow Your Own Saffron.

Saffron production takes place in warm/dry climates such as Spain.

It could impact the taste if grown in different conditions. There was a recent Oregonian article about saffron where they are using a greenhouses for production.

As an experiment, you could grow some saffron in a cold frame or mini-greenhouse and some outside as a control group. The goal would be to determine if the warmer conditions improves the flavor.

Or, the lackluster flavor could be the result of the actual plant material you have on hand. You could try other varieties.

I hope this information helps.

Source URL: https://extension.oregonstate.edu/ask-extension/featured/flavorless-saffron