Thursday, November 8, 2012

Saffron Crocus

Photo courtesy of Netherland Bulb Co.
Day 245
The Daily DuBrule

It's not too late to plant bulbs. Sounds crazy, I know, but this week's big snow is melting as fast as it fell and by the weekend we will see bare ground again. One of the most unusual bulbs you can add to your garden is saffron crocus. Yes, this inexpensive bulb really does produce the spice saffron which is the stigma of the flower. We have a patch of these perennial, late fall blooming crocuses (croci?) in front of Natureworks. They have a completely backwards growth cycle.

The bulbs are available in the fall and as soon as they arrive you will notice that they are sprouting and trying to grow. If you plant them in the garden, they will send up thin, grass-like leaves (they are easy to recognize as they look pretty much like the spring blooming crocuses). These leaves will grow during October and then, at the end of the month or early in November, the soft lavender flowers will appear. It is really fun to show them to garden visitors. They are usually surprised to hear that we can grow saffron in CT. I love to grab the stigma and get the dark, orange saffron on my fingers. You can taste the flavor! 

Now you will understand why saffron is so expensive. It is normally grown, harvested, dried and sold in vials or tins for as much as $75-140 per ounce. It has been called the most expensive spice in the world because it must be harvested by hand. It is usually produced in Spain, India, and the middle east. Why not try something totally new, quite delicious, and really pretty for your late season garden this year? You don't need a lot of room and you can even plant them in partial shade. The only thing to be careful of is not to dig them up in the spring and summer when they are dormant. A permanent metal label is just the ticket for this plant.

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