Monday, November 4, 2019

The Saffron Harvest Begins!


The orange tip of the stigma - the female part of the flower - is just pushing out of the tip of the opening bud of this Saffron flower. To harvest the spice, you pick the flowers and take them apart, drying just the orange-golden stigmas like tiny threads.

We have a few patches of these we planted over the past 20 years. They are autumn flowering members of the genus Crocus, with flowers pushing through the dry ground before even the leaves emerge. This type of flowering, with the flower arising before the leaves, is called hysteranthous flowering.

Saffron is native to the Middle East and parts of Greece, though it was planted widely around the Mediterranean. Even in the United Kingdom the Romans grew it, leaving place names like Saffron Walden behind.

Saffron needs a hot, dry summer and a cool, wet fall through spring. It pulls itself deeper into the ground each year, so needs protection from gophers and squirrels and other rodents that dig.

Over the years, I've grown enough Saffron to make a few rice dishes with my own saffron. It takes a lot of land to grow an ounce of the dry herb!

Our son has planted his bed of saffron now, with high hopes and last year harvested his own first saffron!