Friday, 17 February 2012

Crocus (17 FEB 2012)

When I was five years old, I was given the opportunity of my first acting role, the colour Orange in the school musical Joseph's Amazing Technicolour Dream Coat. My mother bought a large remnant of saffron-coloured curtain material and stitched a portion of it into a tunic using her sewing machine. I don't remember much of the performance itself, or exactly how the other pupils and I assembled to represent the coat of many colours; I do recall being scolded by the teacher though, for pulling faces at my brother in the audience. In my defence, no-one had explained the concept of not being one's self whilst on stage. I was given one more chance to play the stranger who gave directions to the three wise men, since then my theatrical achievements have been accomplished back-stage.

I still have a large square of that curtain remnant folded up in a cupboard. It's function has changed from magic carpet to picnic blanket to hold-all to dust-cloth; one of very few possessions that has accompanied me through the journey of my life. When I see that dust-cloth or just the colour of it, I'm taken back to a time when I was joyously enthusiastic, before I understood what being politically-correct meant, when I wasn't ashamed to skip down the street wearing nothing but my saffron-coloured tunic.

Saffron is the colour of relief as I finally press my Blogger Publish Post button, the colour of the robes of a peaceful Buddhist monk and it speckles my favourite rice dishes. The spice made from dried crocus stigmas has a concentrated, dark red colour. To unleash its vibrant yellowy-orange pigment, saffron strands can be soaked in warm water or milk. This liquid, poured into the rice pot as a natural food-colouring agent, turns a mundane staple into a sunshine-yellow celebration. Only a few strands are required as it's bitter and expensive.

Crocuses in a pot last spring

150 crocus flowers are required to produce 1g of dried saffron strands. I'm not sure if it was this statistic or the crocuses bordering the local park that gave me the idea of planting these bulbs in my lawn last winter. I planted sparingly for this initial attempt, it took less than an hour to dig out some divots from the lawn and pop the bulbs in. A major advantage that I didn't recognise at the time is that grass hides the bulbs from predators. Hopefully, they'll naturalise and propogate themselves into drifts in the years to come.

 
Crocuses in the lawn last spring


This year didn't start so well. A fox or cat found the one pot that I left uncovered ...

Crocus bulbs dug up by a fox or cat this winter

One bulb flowered in the lawn, but it was soon hidden by a thick layer of snow, as reported last week. I didn't fancy its chances of surviving as usually the slightest frost can wilt crocuses and turn them limp & soggy.

However, last Saturday the snow started to melt, revealing that the crocus had been perfectly preserved, and there were more signs of crocus leaves poking out all around.  The fantasy of a magic carpet lives on ...
 
    
crocus in the lawn on Saturday
                                   
... and on Monday

Interesting information about saffron :
http://www.uni-graz.at/~katzer/engl/Croc_sat.html

My favourite rice dish made with saffron :
http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/main-ingredient/poultry-and-game/chicken/moroccan-baked-chicken-with-chickpeas-and-rice.html

Please consider Stacy's invitation in : Thirteen or fewer ways of looking at a Crocus
http://microcosm-in-the-q.blogspot.com/2012/02/thirteen-or-fewer-ways-of-looking-at.html

©Copyright 2012 b-a-g. All rights reserved. Content created by b-a-g for http://experiments-with-plants.blogspot.com/2012/02/crocus-17-feb-2012.html

24 comments:

Donna@GWGT said...

Interesting how they make the spice, saffron, and that so may are needed. It is a flower I look forward to each Spring, but I never know where they will appear, thanks to the squirrels. I planted hundreds and very few are left. Mine too come up in the grass, under shrubs, and just about anywhere they were buried.

HolleyGarden said...

I loved hearing about your theatrical days. I think I was the letter "E" in a play that spelled out M-O-T-H-E-R for mother's day. I didn't know all that about saffron, either. Seems it's more precious than gold. And I'm so happy the snow melted and allowed you to see your beautiful crocuses blooming!

debsgarden said...

I enjoyed your story of the saffron colored robe and how a part of it has remained in your life through the years.And I hope your crocus plants will endure as well, weaving themselves into your personal history. They are admirable plants, pushing up when other plants are still hunkered down from the cold.

linniew said...

A wonderful piece of writing b-a-g. It grew along very like a lovely plant. Saffron is a singular and subtle flavoring, kind of magical. I have a little tiny bit in a jar, which I use rarely. You've inspired me to cook with it again soon.

Bridget said...

Love Crocuses...especially purple ones!

Crystal said...

I love crocus, but so do our squirrels. I'd like to give the saffron crocus a try, but it's them squirrels you see.

b-a-g said...

Donna & Crystal - Don't get me started on squirrels, foxes or cats. Can't believe I still haven't caught them at it. Just wish they would leave my bulbs alone!

Thanks Holley - School plays were the highlight of my year, even though my main contribution was painting scenery.

I think saffron is so expensive because each plant only produces two or three flowers a year.

Thanks Deb - Just wish they would last longer than a couple of weeks.

Thanks Linnie - I recommend cooking the linked rice and chicken dish. I'm sure it would score points with Mr.O.

Bridget - The combination of the purple petals with orange stigma is indeed a striking combination.

Janet said...

What a inspired connection between your formative years and crocuses! Don't you find that blackbirds (i think they're the culprits) pull out the yellow ones?
We use saffron quite often in cooking. It has a subtle flavour.

Janet/Plantaliscious said...

I noticed the first of my purple crocuses popping they heads up the other day, it made me grin with delight. I think a lawn bejewelled with crocuses sounds wonderful, and fortunately they are tough little flowers for all their apparent delicacy. Hope you get a good show this year!

PatioPatch said...

For me orange is outrageous! Without skipping, you could don the saffron robe again and look like a monk b-a-g. Like the nostalgia mixed with hope and humour here. One day you'll have your magic carpet

Alistair said...

At five, I was the King who was in his counting house counting out his money, I still remember it clearly. I was never again to reach such high office. I will look forward to b-a-gs amazing lawn of multi coloured Crocus. No wonder saffron is such a hellish price, there I go again talking of money.

Masha said...

Beautiful flowers, and I don't have any luck with them either, they just don't come back...

You asked me about cane dieback on roses, it is actually called stem canker, there is a good picture of it here:

http://www.sactorose.org/ipm//21fungi/21canker.jpg

Stem canker is worst in cold weather, but some roses are also more susceptible to it than others...

Donna@Gardens Eye View said...

I adore the saffron from crocus and I too planted them in my lawn in hope of seeing a sea of color in the spring...nothing yet and I hope the predators keep away from these crocus...snow doesn't seem to deter my crocus and I am glad yours have survived...

Stacy said...

b-a-g, I always look forward to your posts--I never quite know what will be woven into them. What a wonderful set of things to be reminded of by the color saffron, especially the part about skipping down the street so gleefully, just because you could. I tend to buy saffron and then never cook with it, because it's so expensive that I want to save it for something else. (The same with vanilla beans.) The magic carpet sounds delightful--fun to watch as it spreads year by year, too. Thanks for playing along with the 13 Ways invitation!

P.S. If your brother was like the rest of the world's brothers/sisters at that age, he probably deserved whatever faces you were making at him.

Malar said...

Very interesting story on the robe! Old memories!
Saffron is priceless treasure!

Mark and Gaz said...

Crocus are great plants that bring cheer to the garden in late winter. I find that I still have to keep adding more bulbs in the garden every year so I get lots of blooms as not all of them reliably come back.

b-a-g said...

Thanks Janet - I didn't know blackbirds do that! Yet another suspect.

Thanks Janet (plantalicious) - I saw the purple crocuses in your post, they look very elegant.

Thanks for the suggestion Laura!

Thanks Alistair - might have to wait a few years.

Thanks for the link Masha - Maybe your bulbs are being stolen by our garden friends.

Thanks Donna - I mowed my lawn pretty soon after the crocuses stopped blooming, but they still came back. Hope yours pop up soon.

Thanks Stacy - You're absolutely right about my brother. Of course, I was a saintly sibling.

Thanks Malar - Old memories are the best!

The Sage Butterfly said...

That is why it is so expensive...I can't imagine how much work that requires. The voles get my crocus bulbs from time to time, but I have a few left.

Pam's English Garden said...

Dear b-a-g, I love this charming yet informative posting! It's wonderful that you kept the fabric that evokes childhood memories. I have nothing like that -- when I moved to another continent I needed to pare down my possessions. However, one benefit of advanced age is that memories of childhood are sometimes more real than what happened yesterday. P. x

b-a-g said...

Mark, Gaz & SB - I agree, the crocuses don't last very long so at any one time they only seem dotted around hear and there. I would have to plant loads to get the magic carpet in my mind. Now I see why saffron is so expensive, besides the labour involved in picking out the delicate the stigmas.

Thanks Pam - You may have left your possessions behind but you took your vision of a garden with you. I know what you mean about childhood memories. I didn't realise that I was having so much fun at the time.

jeansgarden said...

I love the orange-gold color of those crocuses, and the connection to your acting debut was great. Your reminiscence about how no one explained that you weren't supposed to be yourself while acting reminded me of my own singing debut at age 5 in the kindergarten end-of-year show. As I started to sing my solo, "When Daddy Was a Little Boy," the audience started to laugh. I think I managed to get through the song, but I was upset. I can remember walking across the street with my father afterward and crying because people had laughed at me. "But it was a funny song," he exclaimed, "people were supposed to laugh!" It hadn't occurred to anyone to explain that to me ahead of time. -Jean

b-a-g said...

Thanks for sharing your story Jean !
I enjoyed your post on forsythia : http://jeansgarden.wordpress.com/2012/02/25/five-views-of-forsythia/

David Marsden said...

My participation in a school nativity play was as a Wise Man (I still remember my line: "All my life I have followed the Star"). I proudly brought my candy-striped dressing gown from home - thinking it very regal. My lovely teacher broke it to me, kindly, that my dressing gown might be better suited for one of the shepherds. And it was. I was terribly upset - until I was given a rich golden robe to wear. Lovely photos! Dave

b-a-g said...

Thanks for sharing the story from your childhood Dave and Welcome!

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