Harvest gets underway at Croydon Saffron Central

By - Monday 2nd November, 2015

Volunteers are now sought to harvest saffron in Croydon town centre, at the crocus farm on the site of the former Taberner House building.

Photo by Saffron Central, used with permission.

Release begins: There’s a stigma attached to Croydon town. There are tens of thousands in fact.

But this stigma’s not slanderous, controversial, ugly, big and bruising.  It’s not embarrassing or unfortunate.

This stigma is subtle and slight, simple and light.  “Stunning”, “wonderful”, “beautiful” and “inspiring”.  This stigma is saffron, from the crocus sativus, and it’s revealing itself all over the London Borough of Croydon right now.

In August 2015, £4,265 was raised via civic crowdfunding site Spacehive to create “Croydon Saffron Central” a pop up saffron farm on the former Croydon Council HQ, Taberner House (which was demolished earlier this year).

The aim was to plant 20,000 crocus sativus corms and raise awareness that Croydon’s name means “Crocus Valley” (from the Anglo-Saxon “Croh Denu”.)  When the Romans spent some time here, they grew saffron.

On the 19th September around 150 community volunteers potted the vast majority of the corms which are 9-10+ cm in circumference.   Over the past month they have slowly emerged with the first bloom appearing on Tuesday 20th October.

It’s now harvest time and volunteers are welcome to detach Croydon’s finest stigmas. “Ideally the saffron needs to be extracted when it first presents itself.  The chances of 20,000 appearing on the same weekend are zero so I’m trying to get in every day and pick what I can. I am available from 1-2pm on most weekdays and there are longer pickings at weekends”, explains Croydon Radio DJ, Ally McKinlay, the projects creator.

Due to the compact nature of the site and peripheral hazards of the demolished area it is essential that any volunteers are fit and able.  There is a strict induction and code of conduct for anyone entering Croydon Saffron Central with a limit of 12 people at any one time.

“Extracting the stigmas is fiddly, requiring squatting, kneeling and a very steady hand.  I don’t want to stop anyone coming in but they must be in control at all times.  I don’t want any injuries over a few saffron strands!”.

Viewing windows are available from Queen’s Gardens which give a great feel for what the farm is all about.  There is also an opportunity to view the Crocuses in the 24 wards of Croydon after Ally presented each Councillor with a bag of 60 to plant in their respective wards.

“With the Croydon Crocus, it’s not red or blue but a lighter mix of the two”, says Ally, who is delighted that both political parties have been so supportive of bringing the crocus back to every hill and valley in the town.

Anyone with a smart phone or the internet can find their local branch by using TiCL.me which was developed by its director Simon Edwards. The banner is “Croydon – Crocus Valley”.

“We are really excited to be working with Saffron Central and all the Croydon volunteers on this project. I hope the use of TiCL App (Apple and Android devices) will make it easier for people living in and visiting Croydon to find the crocuses that have now been planted in all 24 wards. Your nearest crocuses are at the top of TiCL app!”

You can keep up with the progress of the Croydon crocuses here.

When the saffron has all been extracted and the beautiful petals wilt away, the 20,000 plants will be available equally to all 24 wards of Croydon to collect and create their own local saffron farms.

“We’re looking for community gardens, Friends of Parks groups, schools or publicly accessible organisations to care for their future.  If looked after the corms will produce more corms and the 20,000 could be more than 100,000 within 3-5 years.”

If you’re interested in harvesting the saffron or receiving plants in a Croydon ward, please contact Ally McKinlay at or @BadgerJellyfish on Twitter.  There is a Facebook page called “Croydon Saffron Central” for regular updates.

Release ends.

Release sender: Croydon Saffron Central.



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