English Saf­fron

Country Homes & Interiors - - FOOD NOTES -

English Saf­fron is a small busi­ness run by brotherand-sis­ter team David and Penny Smale. David, a geo­physi­cist with a soil spe­cial­ity, started re­viv­ing the Bri­tish saf­fron in­dus­try in 2004. Based in Saf­fron Walden, Es­sex, with a small gar­den in Devon, the pair sell their high­lyprized pro­duce on­line and in Fort­num & Ma­son. Penny tells us more…

What do you love about where you’re based? Es­sex weather is ideal for grow­ing saf­fron and in the Mid­dle Ages, Eng­land was a major saf­fron grower – hence the name Saf­fron Walden. The Es­sex coun­try­side is also just so beau­ti­ful and we are lucky to grow on the Exe Es­tu­ary in Devon, too. What’s so special about your saf­fron? It’s a beau­ti­ful dark red and has an en­tic­ing honey per­fume. The aroma is so strong that it is not un­usual to find bum­ble­bees fast asleep in the flow­ers dur­ing har­vest!

How do you har­vest? We plant in early Septem­ber and the cro­cuses ap­pear from mid-oc­to­ber to De­cem­ber. We do ev­ery­thing by hand, from har­vest­ing the flow­ers to re­mov­ing and dry­ing the saf­fron it­self: the three stigma in the cen­tre of the flower. On av­er­age, it takes about 150 flow­ers to pro­duce a gram of saf­fron. What’s your favourite way to cook with saf­fron?

My favourites are saf­fron ice cream for a sweet op­tion, and saf­fron roast pota­toes for savoury. Our saf­fron gin, how­ever, has to be the stand-out!

English Saf­fron, en­glish­saf­fron.co.uk.

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