December 1, 2013: Saffron in December

Earlier today, my wife commented that the Saffron crocus bulbs she planted in November this year were blooming. She and I were both surprised that they were blooming this late but, as it turns out, they’re a fall bloomer. It’s a beautiful flower and the three very vivid crimson stigmas in each flower are used for dyes and spices. As a spice it ranks among the world’s most expensive spice (anywhere from $500 to $5000 per pound) as it takes approximately 50,000 to 70,000 flowers to produce one pound of saffron. It’s a very labor intensive picking process and to harvest about 2 pounds (approximately 150,000 flowers) takes about 40 hours.

The first time I tasted Saffron was in a paella dish was when I in Berlin in 1976.

My wife to be (at the time) made it for my roommate and I. We had been going together for a while and amongst the many talents she had was her ability to produce incredible meals. She had done all the cooking at home and when she left, she branched out in her culinary skills. In all honesty, the meals she made when we were going together, and since then, were so much better and tastier than anything I had at home.

So when she carried in that platter of paella that late summer afternoon, my room mate and I were awed at the way the dish looked and the amount of food in the pan. It was delicious and was just about gone by the time the three of us were finished. Saffron has been in our pantry ever since.

It’s a unique spice and cannot be duplicated in a dish if you don’t have it available when you need it. Some people use Tumeric as a substitute but it’s not the same in either color and taste.

This is the second time over the years we’ve planted Saffron in the yard. The first time was in a raised bed. They bloomed once and never really came back. As they never came back, we suspect the plants were eaten by the yard critters  we have in abundance here.

We planted about 10 bulbs this year in smaller boxes by the edge of the house. Hopefully, they will continue to bloom year after year.

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