Saffron growing successfully in URI study

South County

SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — Saffron is not commonly grown in the United States and wasn’t grown at all in Southern New England until the last couple of years.

But saffron is now sprouting up at the University of Rhode Island (URI), and postdoctoral researcher Fari Gheshm is leading a study to figure out how to best grow the very expensive spice.

With a wholesale price of $5,000 per pound, there is high value in growing saffron, with about 90% of the global harvest coming from Iran.

Saffron traditionally grows well in dry soils, but Gheshm said Rhode Island soil has some advantages.

“Here we have about six times more organic matter than Iran,” he said.

Gheshm also said that, for the smallest state in the country, saffron may be a good fit for some of the smaller farms.

“There is no need for sophisticated technology, meshings or something like that,” Gheshm said. “Just planting and harvesting by hand.”

Since saffron is a fall-flowering plant, it can extend the growing season, which has mostly come to an end.

Gheshm said the 2nd year of the harvest at URI produced double the yield of Iran, and this year’s harvest could triple Iran’s yield.

It takes between 200-300 flowers to produce just one gram of saffron.

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