Pick of the crop . . . Kurow Saffron harvester Sarah Hines prepares the saffron stems for dehydration. PHOTO: GUS PATTERSON

Often regarded as the world’s most expensive spice, saffron is now being grown in the Waitaki Valley.

Kurow Saffron is a venture run by sisters Sarah Hines and Joanna Towler, who planted their first bulbs in January 2017.

The bulbs multiply over time, and this year had been more than twice as productive as last year, Mrs Hines said.

Saffron comes from the threads of the flower of Crocus sativus

It is a labour-intensive process, as about 100 flowers are needed to produce 1g of the spice.

Harvest . . . During the saffron harvest, the complete flower is picked and placed into sterilised buckets, PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Mrs Hines said the crocus lay dormant over summer before shoots appeared in March and flowers in April.

“You have to pick the flowers quite quickly after they appear, so I’m at the patch every day in April,” she said.

“At the peak of the season, I was picking about 500 flowers a day.

“We have only just started selling the saffron – we want to sell it locally as much as possible.”

Saffron likes a warm and dry summer, and a frost, which triggers the flowering process – so the Waitaki Valley provided great growing conditions, she said.

After the flowers were picked and the threads were separated, the saffron was put into a dehydrator for four hours before being packaged.

It was a delicate process, and the working area had to be completely sterile to protect the product from contamination.

The flowers were pressed to make into cards, but Mrs Hines said they were also working on creating biodegradable wedding confetti.

Saffron was a versatile spice – and it tasted good and natural, she said.

It could be used for teas and rice, and went very well with fish and chicken.

“You don’t need to use a lot. A little goes a long way.”

Kurow Saffron sells the spice online.Authentic Nike SneakersAsics Onitsuka Tiger