Country Homes & Interiors

English Saffron


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, englishsaf­

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