The herbs in the spotlight this year are:
(For more information about these featured herbs, go to the Herb Federation of NZ website and click on the herb name.)
Saffron is the most expensive food in the world – the stigmas of the Crocus sativus flowers must be removed by hand and there are only two or three per flower. Iran is the capital of saffron, producing about 90 per cent of the world’s crop. However, there are saffron growers in New Zealand and this 2010 article about Terraza Saffron (Hawke’s Bay) gives some idea of the back-breaking labour involved in producing the spice.
Cornish saffron cake is a traditional recipe from Cornwall in England. Legend has it that the spice came to the remote area courtesy of the Phoenicians (hailing from what is modern-day Lebanon) who traded it for tin. This recipe is for a Swedish saffron cake traditionally made in December.
Hawthorn has a bit of a reputation in New Zealand for being weedy. I spotted the tree in the photo while in Wellington Botanic Gardens and duly noted its name. However, when a double check threw up a possible misidentification, the staff at the gardens were good enough to set me right (the tree had been labelled wrongly).
Crataegus laevigata Masekii hasn’t set any fruit in Wellington and so isn’t proving a problem.