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Saffron crocus bulbs (Crocus sativus)
Saffron crocuses (Crocus sativus) not only provide dainty blooms to brighten your pots and borders in autumn, they are also the source of the spice saffron. As this is one of the most expensive spice in the world by weight, it's well worth growing your own. Saffron strands are the stigmas of saffron crocus flowers, and these simply need to be removed then dried. The saffron can then be used to add delicate colour and flavour to a range of dishes.
Plant the saffron crocus bulbs in pots or borders, in a warm, sunny spot. Space them 15cm apart, at a depth of about 10cm, then firm down the soil and water in well. The bulbs are widely available from mail-order bulb and seed companies.
When the crocuses flower in autumn, harvest the saffron strands by removing the long, bright orange-red stigmas from the centre of the flowers using tweezers. Each flower produces just three stigmas, so harvest them carefully.
Lay out the harvested stigmas on a paper towel to dry out thoroughly for a few days in a warm, dry place, then store in an air-tight container. Use sparingly in a wide range of dishes, both savoury and sweet, where they will add colour and flavour.