Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mad about saffron

Our friend Hassan gave us this beautiful Iranian saffron when he visited back in – oh, it was so long ago. We recently cooked with it for the first time (because we thought we’d misplaced it, but it was in the spice rack all along). Now we’re torn between using it every meal and hoarding it so it lasts forever. It’s painfully expensive – it takes 75,000 crocus blooms to make a pound of the spice*, and harvest involves plucking three stigmas from each of those blooms by hand. Don’t reach for your calculator – I know you only use about an ounce of saffron a year, so I have done the math for you. You’d only need 4687.5 blooms! And a certain amount of back-breaking labor to plant all those bulbs.

Let’s grow it anyway. Crocus sativus is beautiful, blooms in fall, produces something delicious – a no-brainer Sara-plant, for sure. It has known uses in treating depression, preventing cancer, enhancing mental function, and lowering high cholesterol. I missed my chance to plant them this fall, but have already marked my 2008 calendar to make sure I order some for early fall planting. Those who know me well are permitted a little gasp about the advance planning, but no snickering.

Do not confuse with Colchicum, a.k.a meadow saffron or autumn crocus, also called naked ladies. I know that sounds exciting, but it's quite poisonous (though still a useful plant - a derivative is still used to treat gout, in synthetic form). Another great fall-blooming bulb. Make a note in your 2008 calendar, maybe?

Brent and Becky's Bulbs is one good source: this image is theirs, and shows how much fun we'll have harvesting each delicate stigma from a 4-6" plant. http://www.brentandbeckysbulbs.com

Bring kneepads or beer, help with planting or harvesting, share recipes. I'm thinking 100 bulbs. Don't plant a dozen of these - a dozen bulbs this size, even in a tiny urban garden, is just a hiccup.

*Perhaps true, but like "72,000 ladybugs to a gallon," it sounds like a fake-science way of saying sooooooo many.


Unknown said...

Sounds yummy and fun! Brent and Becky are from Gloucester! - Virginia.

Ellen Zachos said...

I have ALWAYS wanted to do this but by the time fall rolls around I'm too tired or make some other excuse. Shall we promise "I'll do it if you'll do it"? And I love Brent & Becky. They're my favorite bulb vendors and exceptionally kind and generous people, too.

SaraGardens said...

Yes, I promise! You and this plant are meant for each other. You'll have to bring them in - only hardy to Zone 6. (Or hope for the best and replant if necessary.)