GROWING GOLD: District saffron crop worth all the effort

Elliminyt siblings Steve and Jacqui Dignan, pictured right, have been growing labour-intensive and highly priced spice saffron for the past five years and expect their farm to grow.

Elliminyt siblings Steve and Jacqui Dignan, pictured right, have been growing labour-intensive and highly priced spice saffron for the past five years and expect their farm to grow.

COLAC DISTRICT saffron farmers say the value of the spice comes from the labour-intensive farming practices.

Siblings Jacqui and Steve Dignan have been growing saffron for the past five years and say they expect their crop to get bigger.

Saffron is a spice that comes from stamens of flowers from crocus bulbs.

Mr Dignan said they started their farm with 10,000 bulbs four years ago and replanted 55,000 bulbs on 2000 square metres by hand between November and February this year.

“They stay in the ground for four years and then after four years they’ve got to be dug up and separated because each bulb multiplies,” he said.

“One will be the host and then is has two or three bulbs grow off it one year, it eats the original host and then you’ve got three bulbs.

Saffron-crocus“First year after multiplication you only get about 10 to 15 per cent of the bulbs that flower; and then years two, three and four you should get 98 per cent, 99 per cent flowers.”

Ms Dignan said she expected a smaller yield this year due to replanting but hoped to get about 50 to 60,000 flowers next season.

“We haven’t quite worked out for next year how we’re going to cope with the amount of saffron we hope to come through,” she said.

Saffron-harvest-160407TB156“It’s not so much the picking that’s the worst part, it’s the processing, it takes longer again,” she said.

Mr Dignan said they tried to pick flowers before 9am and picked about 1000 flowers an hour.

“The sun actually starts to dry out the stamen on the inside and it drops the weight of them and of course it’s not worth as much,” Ms Dignan said.

Mr Dignan said they processed 300 flowers’ stamens an hour and dried the stamens for two hours before they were ready for sale.

“It takes 200 flowers to get a gram, and you could sell it anywhere between $40 to $60 a gram,” Mr Dignan said.

Ms Dignan said saffron flowered for six weeks of the year.

“We get about 10 per cent in the first two weeks and 10 per cent in the last two weeks and then it all really happens in the four weeks in the middle,” she said.

More than 50 stores stock the Colac Herald print edition across Colac and district, the Great Ocean Road, Warrnambool and Geelong. Pick up your copy today.

Comments are closed.