CENTRAL Victorian growers are bringing an underused spice into people's kitchens.
Squirrel Gully Saffron proprietors Rosie and Drew have been growing Saffron at their Dunnolly property since 2017.
It's just one year since they launched the product into local farmers markets.
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Rosie said when the couple bought 10 acres they knew they wanted to do something food related, but without high water or power use.
Saffron suited the hot summers and cold winters of Central Victoria well.
Rosie said that growing the plant in raised beds had allowed them to control how much water they use.
Her focus was to grow the kind of food she wanted to eat, without chemicals, she said.
And as a chef, Rosie found saffron exciting. It has left her "go nuts" with recipes, everything from souffles, to cocktails to preserves.
She said the flavour was sweet, but with a bit of depth, going well with roast garlic, fennel, ginger, rosewater and sweet things.
"It really was something that sparked my imagination. That's why I went with saffron as opposed to growing herbs or something else," she said.
"People are surprised at how versatile it is. They kind of think of one or two recipes. They are surprised at how many other things they can use it in."
When Rosie and Drew first planted saffron they started with 1000 corms.
Since then they've planted a few more every year, bringing the total to around 4,500.
Rosie said the first thing she hears at every farmers market is, "Ooh, it's so expensive," but it was a time consuming spice to produce.
Each thread needed to be hand picked, and kept whole, she said.
And when buying saffron from overseas it was hard to know whether it was the real deal, or adulterated, she said.
"It's expensive because it's a very manual harvest, and it's only a once a year crop," she said.
"It usually starts around Good Friday, so April. And the flowering season only runs for about eight weeks normally."
More information at: squirrelgullysaffron.com.au/
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