Small But Exciting: Saffron Comes to the One-Block Garden

November 13, 2010 | By | Comments (3)

Seasonings have been a challenge for us ever since we started this one-block diet. We’ve grown chiles, lots and lots of herbs, made salt…but we’re always yearning for more and different flavors to make up for the exotic things that won’t grow here: black pepper, cinnamon, ginger.

Luck descended several weeks ago. We got a potential flavor boost, and an exotic one at that: 50 little saffron bulbs direct from Spain, courtesy of Buddy Born, who travels the world seeking top-quality saffron and vanilla (what a great job).

Saffron (Crocus sativus) is the world’s most expensive spice, costing as much as $400 per ounce for really high grade stuff. So this was thrilling!! We know why it’s expensive—each flower only yields three frail red stigmas, which you dry to make saffron. We’ll be lucky if we harvest a tablespoon’s worth. But still!! You only need a pinch to flavor an entire recipe.

We planted the bulbs immediately. Here they are laid out on the sidewalk next to their future patch. (The larger ones on the left are the daffodil bulbs we dug up to make room).

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Rick, our head gardener, planted all 50 in about five minutes. He set them six inches apart on freshly dug-up soil, troweled a shallow hole for each one, and set it in, pointy end up.

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Buddy thinks they might bloom any day now, which seems strange for a bulb–most of them flower in spring. But saffron only need a few weeks in the ground.  This is what we hope to see, soon! (Note the tantalizing red stigmas in each flower.)

    Crocus-photo1

Saffron growing in Macedonia, Greece.

I’m dreaming about making paella….

But that involves growing rice. Hmm. I don’t think we can convert our garden into a rice paddy. We’ll think of something else. But first, we wait for saffron.

COMMENTS

  1. Margaret

    Do squirrels like saffron bulbs?

    November 17, 2010 at 11:05 pm
  2. jen

    I’m excited to follow how your saffron grows. I tried a dozen bulbs myself this year, but they went straight to foliage and never gave me more than a couple flowers. I had a sad harvest of five stigmas. It’s hard to find a lot of information on growing saffron, so I’m excited about this post!

    November 17, 2010 at 6:18 am
  3. Erika

    Those saffron-bearing crocus are gorgeous! What a photo! I can’t wait to see them blooming at Sunset’s campus.

    November 16, 2010 at 6:01 pm

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