Crocuses grow wild in the hills that surround the Mediterranean Sea. An ancient Greek myth describes the origin of the flower in the following way. Hermes, of winged feet fame, was racing other gods and throwing a discus at the same time. The discus hit a baby named crocus who was the son of Europa and the baby died instantly. Hermes immediately transformed Crocus’s spilled blood into a flower. The child’s mother Europa wore a crocus flower ever after. One wonders where she got a perpetual supply of crocus flowers, since their spring bloom time is so brief__ but I guess those ancient Greek Gods were resourceful.
The English poet Lord Tennyson wrote a poem about Crocus’s mother.
“Sweet Europa’s mantle blew unclasped
From off her shoulder, backward borne,
From one hand drooped a crocus, one hand grasped
the mild bull’s horn.”
The reference to a bull is because the God Zeus in bull form, according to legend, carried Europa away.
There are about 80 species of naturally occurring crocuses in the Mediterranean area, but they have travelled far afield over time. There is an autumn blooming variety, Crocus sativus, with stamens that are the source of saffron. Henry I of England was so fond of saffron as a spice in food that he forebade ladies in his court from using it as a hair lightener. Before dyes were commercially produced, saffron was especially expensive.
This is Moya Andrews, and today we focused on versatile crocuses.