One of the first plants I put in my garden was the fall blooming Crocus sativus, cultivated for its highly prized stigma known as saffron. In the six years I have had this garden, I am surprised every time these flowers open- they seem to appear out of nowhere, and if I am not paying attention the flowers disappear just as quickly taking the precious spice with them. I am usually doing my perennial cleanup by the time the crocus opens, and I am always so grateful to have something new to appreciate. My patch of ten bulbs has now colonized to about forty, and I will definitely add to the collection as I slowly tear out the grass in my yard to make room for food and flowers.
Each flower has three red stigmas to harvest. Last year I made the mistake of putting the saffron threads directly into a storage jar- they molded and I lost the entire crop. This year the threads are going into a small strainer until they have dried (12 hours). Granted, I only ever harvest enough for one dish, but that one dear ingredient makes the meal that much more celebratory.
I'll have to wait until spring to order more fall blooming crocus, but I know I can get them locally through Brent and Becky's in Gloucester, VA. For now, I get to dream of what to make with this year's harvest.