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I am sick of all the cold and snow. Please cheer me up!

Answer

I am sick of all the cold and snow. Please cheer me up! Hang in there. In a few weeks the crocuses will be poking above the snow and the warm weather won't be far behind. Crocuses are fascinating plants that are members of the iris family and bloom in a range of colors: yellow, white, blue, violet and striped. Crocuses are found around the world, and over 80 varieties are known.

While we are mostly familiar with the crocus varieties that bloom in the late winter and in spring, one particularly fascinating variety, the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus), blooms in the fall. All crocus flowers have three red stigmas which are also called "threads".

The saffron crocus has been around for over 3000 years and was bred over the centuries to have especially long threads, which when picked and dried are used to make the saffron spice known around the world.

Because it is so strong, only a few threads are needed to flavor food. Saffron has also been used for dyes, in medicine and in perfumes. After Buddha died in 483 B.C., Buddhist priests used saffron colored robes as their official color which persists to this day. Over 95% of the world's supply of saffron comes from Iran where the threads are hand-picked from crocus flowers in the early morning each fall. It takes about 80,000 crocus flowers to produce 1 lb of saffron. It is estimated that worldwide production of saffron is 600,000 lbs., which means that about 50 million crocuses contributed their stigmas! That's a lot of hand-picking! Not surprisingly, saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, retailing at over $5,000 per oz!

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About Linda Lillie

Linda K. Lillie is the President of Sprigs & Twigs, Inc, the premier landscape design and maintenance, tree care, lawn care, stonework, and carpentry service provider in southeastern Connecticut since 1997. She is a graduate of Connecticut College in Botany, a Connecticut Master Gardener and a national award winning landscape designer for her landscape design and landscape installation work.

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