Saffron lights the victory march
For a long time, I've wanted to grow my own saffron spice. This autumn, doing so arrived at the top of my list of things to do with a life. I ordered bulbs of Crocus sativus (often called Autumn crocus or Saffron crocus) from two different vendors and put them in the ground in two different parts of the garden.
On Saturday the first crocus flower appears, unfurling into the sun only twelve days after planting. (Note to self: keep that plant vendor's contact details). There they are: those three precious red stigma of the most expensive spice in the world, so beautiful against purple petals and set off by yellow stamens!
Once the flower fully opens, I use tweezers to, gently as I can, harvest my first three threads of homegrown saffron. These will air dry while I wait to see what the other bulbs are going to do. It is said that it takes 50,000 to 75,000 flowers to produce a pound of saffron, which must all be harvested by hand. My fingers tremble as I think about how casually I have tossed a few precious strands of purchased saffron into kheer in the past.
The mutilated flower is left to enhance the garden. Hopefully it will encourage its companions to bloom while the little leaves just emerging will do their work of making more healthy bulbs underground in the coming months. The flower does look vacant and a bit spoiled to me now, but I will get over that. I hope. I did my best to not bruise the petals or crush the stamen during the harvest procedure but my fingers felt so clumsy on such delicacy.
I'm still trying to work out whether this tiny saffron success is garden goals, cookery/plant medicine goals or spice wallah goals achieved, but can't help wondering at the timing of this crocus bloom. A few hours earlier, at the farmers market, I had a conversation with a neighbour about saffron and the colours we would fly in flags for world peace, provoked by her saffron crocus petal purple dress as she stood in front of my sanyasi saffron orange cloths printed in magenta ink which echo the colours of Tibetan Buddhist monks robes. At the time I didn't know a flower was opening back home at the shala.
Timing? Coincidence? Gardens are portals for magic to enter the world.
"The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world." Michael Pollan