This year's saffron harvest has been in full swing for almost week now. The weather is not so nice as last year, when we sat outside to pinch the valuable strands out of the centres of the flowers. It's colder and damper this year, and in the dull weather the flowers are not opening, making removing the stigmae even more fiddly. Monsieur Mériguet, the main local producer, is seated comfortably on his sofa with the fire going, and saffron crocus flowers spread everywhere, in piles, on newspaper, in various stages of processing.
Saffron should be planted in August if you have dry bulbs, or you can plant it 'in the green', immediately after flowering, in early November. They are easy to grow and multiply rapidly. Monsieur Mériguet pointed out to me on Sunday that any soil and aspect that is suitable for vines is suitable for saffron (and for truffle oaks). Getting them to flower successfully however means planting them deeply. 15cm is recommended - any shallower, and all you will get is leaves.
This will be my first foray into the textile art world in more than 10 years. Once upon a time, and for many years, working with textiles and thread to produce clothes and decorative objects was my main leisure activity. I haven't done much dyeing, but I think now is the time. I have the space to grow a lot of my own dyestuffs, and a nice outdoor area to work. My eyesight is no longer good enough for the sort of fine stitching, beadwork and textile manipulation that I used to do, but long ago I produced some natural indigo dyed samples and the magic of the process has stayed with me all these years. Of course, indigo is an entirely different kettle of dyestuffs to saffron flowers, but I am sure messing around with textiles again will be fun. I was very pleased to learn that, just when I need a refresher, there is an international conference on natural dyeing to be held at La Rochelle at Easter next year, so I am hoping to attend at least part of this. There are half a dozen Australians on the programme to speak, and a big marketplace which will be open to the general public.