Arry Isaac

Meet the Grower - Hilltop Gold Saffron

So recently here at Herbal Dimensions, I was excited and really pleased to have started offering Devonshire-grown Saffron, and I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce my friend and grower, Arry Isaac, and his Saffron growing venture, 'Hilltop Gold'.


Saffron, a world-famous spice known for its culinary and medicinal qualities, thrives mainly in much warmer climates. However, much less known is that it has historically been grown in the UK, and Arry has embarked on his own Saffron venture here in Devon.


To find out more about Saffron's general uses and benefits, visit our plant monograph HERE. To purchase Hilltop Gold Saffron, click HERE.


Pink and purple saffron flowers

Image 1: Flowering Saffron Crocus

Hello Arry, it's been a real pleasure to see your Saffron venture bloom (pun very much intended)! Could you share when you first began growing Saffron?

I've been growing saffron for over four years at this point. Shortly after settling onto the land I now call home, I acquired my first saffron corms from a local garden centre, popping them into the ground to see if they would grow. Eight months later I dug them up and found about 30 corms where I planted them! Though they produced no flowers that first year, I knew that it was possible.


An empty field before work has begun

Image 2: The work begins!

How did your interest in Saffron begin, and what inspired you to grow it?

I'd thought about growing saffron when I lived in my old home but quickly realised that I did not have enough space. It was only after moving onto my field that I looked into it again and I was amazed to find out that it was an amazing plant with lots of useful properties not just for taste and cooking but that it also has medicinal qualities.


Several years ago I was assaulted and suffered a massive head injury, the consequences of which I'm still suffering with today. I read that Saffron could be helpful with the significant mental and physical health battles I've faced since the assault. As such I now consume it most days to help with elements of my condition.


I was initially growing it for myself, but after discovering the benefits I thought that if I grew more than I needed I could sell the extra. In that way, I'd be able to help other people out too by providing high quality, locally sourced Saffron in Plymouth and the surrounding area.


Arry sat down taking a break in front of a pile of earth

Image 3: Taking a well deserved break!

How has Saffron helped you ?

Saffron has added to my life in ways that I never even considered possible initially. Not only has consuming it benefited my own memory and health but it has helped me with motivation and has given me a greater sense of purpose. My little experiment has grown into the start of a small business and gives me something to focus on.


Wooden planks on grass to create raised beds

Image 4: Construction of raised beds

How do you use Saffron yourself?

I use saffron every day in my cooking and as a drink. It's best to combine with some fats for enhanced absorption. I find any milk works well and it is also great to use in conjunction with turmeric and black pepper. They are all super good for you and work together to increase the effect of the saffron property's, making it more effective than cooking without them . In my drinks, I add about 15-30 Saffron threads and a dash of honey. You must remember to stick to appropriate dosages, as excessive consumption can be harmful.


Large, red net sacks of saffron corms

Image 5: Sacks of Saffron crocus corms

Tell me about your experience of growing Saffron?

It's quite a labour intensive process, from the hard work of setting up the beds, to making the right soil, at the end of it all you have the harvesting. I have learnt a lot in these past few years and I can say there has been quite the learning curve! I started out as a complete novice but through my research in books and online I have reached a point where I am happy with my abilities, though I've definitely made some mistakes along the way.


For example, the raised beds you see in the images were of my first planting. I put weed suppressing matting down and very soon after some furry friends move in... I had bought a couple thousand saffron corms and the voles ate 1/5 of them - around 500!! - that year. Saffron needs three to four years to establish really, but at that rate of damage I needed to do something about it. I've since moved my planting to a larger bed, which is not raised and with no matting. The voles are still about, but not as bad.


Raised beds filled with earth

Image 6: Planting the beds out


However, as we know, Saffron multiplies via corms so in the long run I've managed to increase the amount of plants significantly since I began.


Harvesting is a long process, it takes about 150 flowers to make 1g of prepared Saffron and picking the saffron stigmas (the part we call Saffron) must be done by hand. I was slower to begin with but I now takes me about half an hour to pick 1g of Saffron.


I'm still improving my techniques on a daily basis, and will probably still be learning for years to come!


Crocus leaves poking through the soil

Image 7: Crocus emergence!


Images courtesy of Hilltop Gold

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