Wednesday, February 23, 2011


For some reason I get really excited to see the first crocus of the season. It reminds me of childhood spring times in Virginia, where one of the earliest harbingers of winter's demise was a few brave little buds poking through the snow.

We haven't had snow, but there's been plenty of wintry weather and, true to its kind, this exuberant bloom was waiting to greet me during a string of gloomy days we've been having. Unseasonably warm weather lasted through January and half of February, then shifted dramatically, thanks to a low-pressure system from the Gulf of Alaska bringing cold temperatures, pounding rain, and snow in the mountains.

The crocus is in the Iris family and one particular variety is the source of saffron seasoning. What we call saffron is hundreds and hundreds of deep orange stamens hand-gathered from crocus blossoms and carefully dried and packaged. That's why it's the most expensive spice by weight in the world. It takes a football field to make a pound's worth.

I don't know what variety of crocus has just bloomed in my backyard, but I'm really glad to see it, bright orange stamens and all.

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