The rich purple and gold saffron crocus makes a gorgeous addition to an autumn garden.
When harvesting, just three stigmas per plant are gathered; they are used as a fragrant spice and also as a golden dye. According to Rachel Geenan, at $315 per ounce or $5,040 per pound, the price rivals that of gold. Not surprising. The Greek Products website says that 75,000 flowers go into one pound of spice.
Saffron has been used for thousands of years, and is featured in stories about the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra as well as in Greek mythology. Catalina Toma places it in ancient times as pigment in cave paintings. Tibetan monks used it in prayer ceremonies. Koranic writers used it in calligraphy.
As the rich golden colour suggests, saffron contains carotenoid compounds as well as volatile oils. According to Saffron Nutrition Facts, these substances, along with the vitamins contained in the spice -- A, C
and some forms of B -- make it rich in anti-antioxidants. Medicinally, it has been used as an anti-depressant, antiseptic, and anti-convulsant. Research done in Italy in 2009 suggests that may be effective in combating eye disease and alleviating age-related vision loss. Similar research conducted in Australia and Italy the following year pointed to the properties of saffron in treating macular degeneration, and interest it beneficial possibilities continues.
The word saffron comes from the Arabic zafran. Native to the Mediterranean region, this spice is grown today mostly in Spain, Morocco, Greece, Turkey, Iran and India.
Saffron is also the name of an award-winning restaurant in Burnaby that serves a variety of Indian cuisines. At My Shanti in Surrey, I enjoyed a Honey Saffron Lassi recently.
It's a pleasure to enjoy saffron crocus among my fall garden blooms.