}

November 13, 2011

My Arab Spring - The Saffron Crocus Arrives

THE SAFFRON CROCUS, CROCUS SATIVUS, BLOOMING IN A RAISED ROCK BED IN FULL SUN, UNDER A BLANKET OF PSEUDO-LARIX NEEDLES.
The most commonly known autumn-blooming crocus, is Crocus sativus, the Saffron Crocus. Still, one of the world's most costly spices, each corm produces one to three blossoms, and each blossom rewards one with a measly three or four stigmas, the dried precious stigmas are fragrant, and rich in the naturally chemical safranal and picrocrocin, the pigment that lends the brilliant yellow color to rice dishes and oils. I never pick my stigmas, since it would take roughly 150 flowers to get a gram ( about a teaspoon full). With that knowledge, the corms are more costly than the stigmas are, so I let them be. Not hardy for me, I must grow my C. sativus in pots which I keep in the bulb beds in the greenhouse. This year, I had a few extra corms, so I saved a few to plant in the alpine beds.
CROCUS SATIVUS 
It may be difficult for one  to imagine that C. sativus is still an important crop in parts of Iran, Greece, Morocco and Spain, but Iran ( or Iraq, depending on what Google search you use) rules the Saffron market. Two sites say that nearly the same thing, but with different sources. Wikipedia sites that 94% of the world's total production of Saffron. Iran alone, while Answers.com reports that 96% of the worlds crop comes from Iraq. One site claims that Iran exported 57 tons of saffron last year. The truth is that Kashmir hails as the home of Saffron, for it is where Crocus cartwrightianus descends from, (a  parent species of C. sativus which is a species not found in the wild). This little fact informs us why each nation near these lines of dispute can claim saffron as their own.  Be it Pakistan, India, China, Iraq, Iran, these ever-constant borders of conflict are invisible to one, tiny little crocus, so essential to each of these cultures' cuisine and medicine. 

I can't even imagine how may crocus flowers it could take to make one hundred pound ( 70,000 - to 125,000 says one site, but that does sounds a little high, doesn't it?). Still, common sense lends on to be impressed with the  immense quantity it takes to make one ton. Add in the fact the Saffron threads must be hand picked and dried, and one can see why the cost is so incredibly high. 







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