(CIGDEM AND SAFRAN)
The crocus, a beautiful flower that brings to mind survival and strength with its ability to stand up even to harsh winds of the mountains, the will to survive. The crocus or ‘Colchicum’ by its Latin name, seen more often at high and cold elevations, in the foothills of mountains, towards the end of winter. Crocuses look delicate but they are not about to be blown away by the slightest gust of wind. No flower can surpass them in resistance to cold temperatures and harsh winds. Crocuses, which symbolize life under severe conditions, seem to have been created expressly to brighten up the environment with their vibrant colors.
Crocuses, which are among the few plant species that bloom in winter, spring up in autumn in the form of colonies on hills and plains. Yellow, purple, pink, white and blue, they appear before us in a rainbow of hues and tones, coloring the bare earth where the snow has just begun to melt. We encounter them too in autumn when the long days of summer are over. These crocuses, usually purplish pink in color and known as ‘autumn crocuses’, remind us that winter is slowly coming in. The seeds and bulbs of autumn crocuses, which grow some 10-30 cm tall, contain various alkaloids, including mainly Colchis, and are therefore extremely poisonous. Colchis meanwhile is used to treat rheumatism and gout as well as being employed in cell and genetic research.
Turkey boasts 59 natural species of the crocus, which is indigenous to Eurasia. Nearly 30 species of this flower, which is found in almost every part of the country, are unique to Turkey. The ‘Istanbul crocus’ (Crocus olivieri subsp. istanbulensis) is one of them. This brilliant yellow crocus, which is found around Tasdelen and Ã?merli, grows only in this region of the world. The KadikÃ¶y ‘Bitter Crocus’ (Colchicum chalcedonicum), which blooms in September, also made Istanbul its home. Discovered in 1911 by botanist Kevork ViÃ§en Aznavur, who introduced it to the botanical literature, this species is found more often on the Anatolian side of Istanbul, in the Pendik-Kartal area. It is also encountered on the city’s European side between AlibeykÃ¶y and Ikitelli.
The buds of the crocus, a bulbous plant, appear in spring and autumn. They blossom quickly, and after blooming for about two weeks open their leaves completely, thus concluding their growth cycle. When the weather begins to warm up, they fade and wither. But this is no process of destruction. For, thanks to the bulbs, which function as plant storage depots, they continue to live underground in a dormant state until the next year. The crocus bulbs sold by florists are in exactly this state, which means that you can grow colorful crocuses in pots either in your garden or in your home. But there is one thing you must be careful of, namely that the ones that bloom in autumn have to be planted in June and the others in either late summer or early autumn.
Saffron, the world’s most expensive spice, is the stigma of the ‘Crocus sativus’, another member of the crocus family? More than 225 such stigma are needed to produce just half a kilo of saffron, which was widely used in the Ottoman period. Saffron, which is obtained from the light purple crocuses that bloom in September and October, is a plant that has been raised for centuries in Anatolia as much as a spice and dye as for medicinal purposes. The records indicate that saffron production in past centuries reached as high as ten tones. Although it was produced most widely in Safranbolu (city of saffron), which is named for it, saffron was also grown around Istanbul, Tokat, Izmir, Adana and Sanliurfa. Cultivated only in a small area of the village of Davutobasi near Safranbolu today, saffron is used not only in foodstuffs but also in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.
The crocus, which is popularly known in Anatolia by names such as ‘kalkgit’, ‘vargit’, and ‘mahmurÃ§iÃ§egi’ (‘get-up-and-go’ or ‘sleepy flower’), has also given its name to a number of Anatolian highlands. One of the best-known among them is the magnificent Ã?igdem Yaylasi (Crocus Highland) at 1400 meters on the forested plateau of Mount Elmacik in Adapazari province, carpeting it in yellow and purple in winter and spring and in pink and lilac in autumn. So dense is the crocus cover that you can hardly take a step without treading on one.
Reference: Ali Ihsan Gokcen / SKYLIFE
Some selected examples (please click on pictures to enlarge):