Why are these little pots of saffron the price of gold?
Shorkk is introducing Lebanese saffron to the UK, in a little glass pot, from the Bekaa valley in Lebanon famous for its rich soil and agricultural produce. Growing saffron as a crop in Lebanon is relatively new. Inspired by research carried out in 2003 by the American University of Beirut, this is part of a scheme to provide small rural communities with a profitable crop in an area of the country where employment and income are critical. As climate change is affecting global farming communities, studies were initiated to find crops which could survive the extreme heat and the lack of rainfall. Saffron was found to work well in the terrain of the Bekaa. Once planted, the corms reproduce and these bulbs can be passed on to other farmers to start up their own project. The initial corm is the “mother” bulb, and produces “daughter” bulbs, which take over once the bulb dies, to produce more saffron the following year.
The Phoenicians were responsible for bringing saffron to England, via the Cornish tin trade, according to Patience Gary in “Honey from the Weed”. So it seems only appropriate that we are now importing saffron to the UK saffron from the land of the Phoenicians. Throughout the year, Bedouin women weed the field by hand, removing rocks, so that the flower of the crocus sativus can push up through the rain-fed red clay soil in the late autumn. In late November there is a 48 hour window for harvesting to take place. Work begins early in the day, before the sun damages the petals. It is back breaking work. Careful hands collect the flowers, then later pinch out the three stigmas before the drying process, which intensifies the colour, can begin. This all has to be done on the same day. According to Caz Hidebrand, in her book The Grammar of Spice, it takes around 150,000 flowers to produce one kilogram of saffron. This represents hours of work. This is why these little pots of saffron are the price of gold.