Saffron and the word of the moment

You may remember I planted some saffron crocuses in a couple of pots in August. They started to flower this week. They’re a delicate shade of purple, each with three bright orangey-red stamens – the part of the plant that is used as a spice. They also have quite a strong heady scent if you get up close and personal with them.

Harvesting of the stamens, according to the instructions, must take place either at dawn or when the flower opens to get maximum flavour. Then you have to dry them out thoroughly, after which you can store them in an airtight jar for several years. I should end up with 90 stamens, which may sound a lot, but actually isn’t. No wonder saffron is so expensive!

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An aside: I just looked up stamen (the current word of the moment) in the dictionary. It says that they are the male reproductive organs of a flower. Castrated croci!

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Categories: Nature and Science and Tech | Tags: , , ,

Word of the moment: chimichanga

I went to London with Colin on the Saturday of the August Bank Holiday weekend to see some friends who have moved there from Cambridge. We were finally introduced to the chimichanga. This is a deep-fried burrito (literally ‘little donkey’), and was served with refried beans and rice.

At Christmas, when singing the carol Little Donkey, Spanish speakers (singers) will appear to be singing for their supper:

Burrito, burrito, en el polvoriento camino….

As a further note, in Spanish, as in English, the re- suffix may be applied to a verb to indicate repetition of the verbal action: abrir ‘to open’, reabrir ‘to reopen’.

In Spanish, however, it may also be applied to words to indicate intensity. Hence, frijoles refritos ‘refried beans’ are not cooked again, but are well-cooked.

Categories: Miscellaneous | Tags: ,

Word of the moment: geotropic

Months ago, I saw an advert for saffron crocuses (crocus sativa) in a magazine. I thought they were pretty and how nice it would be to have my own personal supply of the world’s most expensive spice. My wedding anniversary was coming up, which was fruit and flowers, so I dropped a very unsubtle hint to my husband that I would like some. Our anniversary came and went, but there was no sign of the crocus bulbs. Until the end of July, when the postman knocked, bearing an unexpected package. The company obviously only send them out just before they should be planted.

Yesterday, I decided to plant them. They have to go in pots so I can take them with me when we next move house, if I haven’t managed to kill them off. They’re quite hardy, so hopefully no chance of that and I’ve also managed to grow bulbs successfully before. The instructions assumed you were planting them in the ground, so it was decided I should ask a man at the centre for advice.

When I got to the garden centre, I looked around at the ceramic pots, which were very nice and very expensive. Then I found a man to ask. He recommended a bag of compost and then he took me to the plastic pots, which I hadn’t even thought about. I showed him the instructions, and informed him I had 30 bulbs. He reckoned that they’d need a lot less space than the instructions reckoned, so I got two quite large pots.

I asked could I plant anything else in the pot that would flower in the spring so the pots wouldn’t look bare all year because my saffron crocuses will flower in the autumn. He said yes, I could plant other crocuses with different sized bulbs in at different levels. He seemed most knowledgeable about crocuses.

He told me that the saffron crocuses will flower this autumn because the flower is already formed inside the bulb, and it’s just waiting to come shooting out the top. Or the bottom, if you plant it upside down, in which case, it will grow round then up. The roots will grow round and down and eventually pull the bulb the right way round. They’re geotropic, you see.

He also said that the bulb is an energy store; smaller bulbs have got less oomph than larger bulbs, so the former must be planted more shallowly than the latter.

When you’re choosing crocuses, the size of the flower in the picture on the packet tells you whether they’ll bloom late or early in the spring. Smaller flowers are less vulnerable to the cooler temperatures of early spring, whereas the larger flowers are more delicate, so don’t come out until later in the season, when it starts getting warmer.

I thought this was all very interesting, and did make sense. I came away with, and I’m afraid I’ve forgotten the proper names so you’ll have to make do with vague descriptions, some really pretty small blue ones and some small white ones that should flower in early spring and some stripy purple and white ones that should flower later in spring.

When I got home, I planted the saffron crocus bulbs at a depth of approximately 6 inches, the stripy ones a couple of inches above that and the blue ones and white ones a couple of inches down, watering the compost as I went. I put some pebbles on the top to discourage weed growth and put them to one side of the garden in a spot where they’ll catch the afternoon sun, if there is any, just in time to put everything away before the rain started properly.

There’s no sign of any growth yet.

Categories: Nature and Science and Tech | Tags: , ,

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