Tuesday, 6 October 2009


Yay! We had two saffron crocuses today when I looked in the garden.
A number of years ago I decided it might be fun to grow some saffron. Since the town of Saffron Walden in Essex got its name because they used to grow saffron in those parts, we thought it ought to be possible to grow saffron in the UK.

After a few years of searching, whenever we found displays of bulbs in the garden centres (the internet wasn't yet what it is now), we found some packets of Unwins' saffron crocus bulbs in a display of spring bulbs one August bank holiday.So we planted our twelve bulbs, and waited. And waited and waited and waited. Every year the leaves would come up, but no flowers. Instead of flowering, the bulbs were dividing into smaller and smaller bulbs, so that from twelve, we now had over a hundred very small bulbs, but no saffron.

Then one autumn, after the leaves had come up as usual, we found one solitary crocus flower. We nearly missed it, as we were under the impression that the flowers were supposed to come up before the leaves, so once the leaves had come up, we had resigned ourselves to another year without any saffron. The following summer we had the heatwave of 2006, and in early October - at last - we got about 50 crocus flowers - at 3 strands of saffron per flower, enough saffron for two or three dishes, after more than ten years.

The following summers weren't so scorching, however, so our saffron production again went back to zero. Last summer we found some nice large crocus bulbs at a bulb stall in a local farmer's market. We planted them according to the seller's recommendations, and each bulb produced two or three flowers.

This year we have been anxiously watching the crocus leaves come up, and wondering whether or not they would flower, since these newer crocus bulbs had also subdivided into several smaller bulbs each.

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