Words by Richard Cornish Images Supplied
Saffron, by weight, is more costly than gold. But a little saffron goes a long, long way, a tiny pinch is an essential spice flavouring dishes from paella to bouillabaisse. The local saffron harvest has just finished and Rosemary Pamic and Andrew Black from Squirrel Gully Saffron have finished drying their precious threads and now have the 2022 season stock for sale.
“Saffron is the stigmas, thread-like parts of the flower of a crocus bulb,” says Rosemary. She and Andrew grow their bulbs in above-ground containers on their farm at Dunolly, halfway between Bendigo and Ballarat. “The crocus bulbs are easy targets for fungus and the raised beds offer better drainage,” she says.
The bulbs flower in late autumn and there is a brief fortnight when the flowers can be picked. The small blooms are hand-harvested before sunrise and the red saffron stigmas are painstakingly removed. They are then carefully dried to develop the aromatic compounds in saffron.
“There is a lot of fake saffron around,” says Rosemary. She refers to the ‘saffron powder’ an imported imposter that is artificially coloured and flavoured fakery. Some product sold as saffron can be stigma from other plants that has been artificially dyed.
The busy pair at Squirrel Gully Saffron also produce a range of saffron value-added products from rather delicious saffron-flavoured caramelised popcorn and saffron-flavoured salt. The product range is highly regarded and has been used in the kitchens at Goldmines Hotel in Bendigo and Trofeo Estate on the Mornington Peninsula. The 2022 season saffron is now in stock as are other saffron products such as dulce de membrillo, paella packs and cultured butter-making packs.
What: Victorian Saffron
Where: Buy online for $13 per 100mg at Squirrel Valley Saffron
We wish to acknowledge the Dja Dja Wurrung people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.