At the end of the gardening season the domesticated fall blooming crocus (Crocus sativus) comes out to show. They are believed to be descendant from the eastern Mediterranean Crocus cartwrightianus, also known as “wild saffron” and originating in Greece or Crete. Inside the lovely blooms three stigma or threads bear the rare spice Saffron. At one point in antiquity Saffron was considered currency and was a valuable pigment used by artists. Cleopatra put it in her bath as scent it is said.
Today one would need to plant approximately 80,000 flowers to obtain a pound of Saffron, commonly known as red gold, selling for between 500 and 5,000 US dollars per pound.
If you have fall blooming crocus and are thinking of harvesting some Saffron make sure that you can identify true Crocus sativus. Other fall crocuses like Colchicum Autumnal (Meadow Saffron) are not edible and indeed have toxic properties, particularly for dogs. Also very beautiful the Colchicum blooms contain three clusters of stigma, yellow gold in color.
Aesthetically, the type of crocus hardly matters when one sees the sweet blossoms laid out on autumn’s canvas in light and shadow. They are a delight for the eye as winter comes on.
Photos of Saffron Crocus courtesy of High Country Gardens
Photos of Meadow Saffron Crocus by Barbara Carvallo