As good as gold

Thomas J. Story
As good as gold
This highly prized flower can bring great color to your garden

Saffron crocus (Crocus sativus) is highly prized for the scarlet-colored stigmas (parts where pollen germinates) in the center of its lavender flowers. When dried, these threadlike stigmas are commonly known as saffron, which, at $171 to $357 per ounce, is the world's most expensive spice.

Why so costly? It takes around 4,000 hand-harvested stigmas to yield 1 ounce of saffron. But the corms (bulblike organs) cost only about 50 cents apiece, and they don't need chilling like spring-blooming crocus. For flowers in late September or October, plant them right after you buy them. Plant corms 3 to 4 inches deep and 6 inches apart in rich, well-drained soil in an area that gets full sun and no summer water. When a flower is fully open, its three stigmas are ready to harvest. Dry them on a paper napkin for 1 1/2 to 2 days until almost crumbly; store in a sealed jar in a cool, dry place.

ONE SOURCE: Brent and Becky's Bulbs (877/661-2852).

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