Saffron: a shaggy dog story

Alyssa Ferguson
3 min readJan 8, 2023
Photo by Benyamin Bohlouli on Unsplash

Saffron is a precious substance,
but easy to obtain.
Buy some crocus bulbs. Plant them. Watch them grow. Harvest the saffron.
Now your menu is replete with exotic esculents.

But the cost of harvest —
how severe it is!
Its cost is measured in tedium:
For you must comb pollen from each individual flower
with a bee’s leg
held by your fingers with tweezers or —
if your fingers are small —
between your fingers themselves;
or between your teeth.

To acquire a bee’s leg —
or perhaps two, in case the one is damaged in use or preparation —
you must first capture a bee,
and then dismember it.
You may decapitate it as a first step,
in a gesture of mercy;
but then you must carefully remove its hind legs,
mindful not to crush the delicate hairs
that will comb the pollen.

Then you must let the legs dry
for a few days.
But do not give them too much direct sun,
or they may become crisp and turn to dust.
When they have reached their optimal cure —
stiff and strong, but with the hairs still somewhat flexible —
you must clasp them with your tweezers,
or small fingers,
or teeth,
and go to the crocuses.

Of course, you must go to the crocuses
at the proper time,
when they are flowering in the flower of their vigor,
their stamens replete with pollen, which your bees —
those you have not killed for the sake of their legs —
and feral butterflies will be harmoniously transferring to the stigmas —
plump, hungry, fertile little hussies that they are! —
so that each flower is a pungent orgy of sexual excess;
else you will have wasted all your careful effort.

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Alyssa Ferguson

Born and raised in a literary household, I write to clarify my own questions.