You read that right. The most expensive spice in the world, sometimes called ‘red gold’, is now being grown in Ontario by a few industrious farmers in Northumberland County.
Saffron threads are the bright red – throwback to your high school biology lessons here – stigmas and styles derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly known as the “saffron crocus”. It is believed to have been first cultivated in Greece, but today most of the saffron we eat is grown in Iran, Greece, Morocco or India.
The crocus is an interesting plant. It multiplies so voraciously that without human intervention, that is, the digging up and spreading of the corm, it would chock itself out of existence. They need to be dug up, split and replanted periodically to continue to grow.
This year marked True Saffron‘s third harvest, ever.
During the short four-week bloom period, a mix of staff and volunteers at True Saffron pick flowers daily. They then gently shuck each one by hand. They remove the pistils and carefully trim and dry them in small batches. The saffron threads are then left to ‘rest’ for a month where they cure to intensify their flavour.
It takes about 75 – 100 flowers to make just half a gram of saffron threads. That’s a lot of saffron and the labour involved makes them a prized, special treat.
You can get the dried Ontario-grown saffron threads from True Saffron directly – online – or you can try one of their various infusions. They make saffron infused hot sauces, vinegars and even chocolate which they sell at local farmers’ markets.
You can also try it at The Mill Restaurant & Pub in Cobourg! This Feast On Certified spot will be launching their fall menu Wednesday, October 24th and it features Ontario grown saffron. Check it out.