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Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice, so why not try your hand at growing your own.  It comes from the Saffron Crocus (Crocus Sativus) and is prized for adding flavour, colour and aroma to dishes such as Paella. It is also used as a dye and over the centuries it has been reputed to cure an array of ailments.  But why is it so expensive? The reason is you need many crocuses to produce a small amount of Saffron, in fact to produce one gram of Saffron you will need around 150 flowers.

The flowers are delightful in their own right providing mauve or white scented autumn blooms for your borders and containers. However, it is not the petals but the three pronged crimson stigmas in the centre of the flower that are the treasured spice.

A warm, sheltered and sunny spot is the best place for the Saffron Crocus. Plant them in summer in moist but well drained soil. Waterlogged soil can lead to rotting of the bulbs, so add grit if necessary. Plant around 10cm (4in) deep and 15cm (6in) apart in beds or containers.

In Autumn when the Crocuses are in flower is the time to harvest your Saffron.  Harvest the three stigmas from each flower with a pair of tweezers and dry them out for a few days on a piece of paper towel in a dry warm spot. Store them in a jar ready for use in delicious Mediterranean dishes throughout the year and amaze guests by boasting that you have produced your very own spice in our UK climate.

To view Saffron Crocus bulbs at Suttons click here

Mark Snelling

Images copyright Suttons

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