Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Saffron - The Most Valuable Spice

Saffron threads

Saffron is hailed as the most valuable spice in the world – more valuable than gold! Let’s see, now. Saffron was recently priced at about $112 per ounce (avoir), and gold was priced at $1425 per ounce (troy). Even without bothering to convert avoir to troy (1 to .91), it’s clear there’s no contest. But here’s the consolation – most of us can’t mine for gold in our backyards, but we can probably grow saffron crocus!
Crocus sativus flowers
Saffron comes from a crocus flower (Crocus sativus), which blooms in autumn. The spicy part is the red, thread-like stigma of the flower. Each flower only produces three stigmas, and each bulb only produces one flower per year. You can see at once that it takes a bunch of saffron crocus bulbs to produce a tablespoon of spicy threads. (That’s why I sell them by the case.)

Besides being tasty, saffron has been used to color fabric – like the yellow-orange robes of Buddhist monks. (They used turmuric, too.)

Saffron crocuses thrive in USDA climate zones 4 through 9, so gardeners in most parts of the U.S. can enjoy them. Plant in full sun to partial shade. Average garden soil that is consistently moist with pH ranging from 6.1 to 7.8 is fine.

A good all-around practice for bulbs is to mix 5 tablespoons of 10-10-10 fertilizer and 2 cups of bone meal per ten square feet area of bulb garden. Be careful that fertilizer does not come into direct contact with plant tissue.

Crocus corms should be planted 3" deep. Depth is measured to the bottom of the hole. Recommended plant spacing is 3" to 6". If 6" apart, you'd need 4 per sq. ft., so a case of 100 should cover up to 25 square feet. Unless snow or rain fall is inadequate, irrigation should not be necessary.

A great thing about crocus corms is that they’ll come up year after year, and multiply. They require very little maintenance. Some folks plant them in the lawn for naturalizing, but you might not want to do that with saffron crocuses.

I’m not claiming that you’ll grow premium quality saffron in your own backyard. Few locations are so productive. But it sure would be fun to grow your own, and use it proudly in your special curry or paella recipe.

So, check them out at GoGardenNow.com. They’re not shipped until September, but you’d better order early while they’re available. 

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