A family farm in Tahoka has spent the last three years growing the most expensive spice in the world — saffron.
In a recent interview with Valley Central, Karl McDonald explains that the idea for him and his family to cultivate the spice bloomed during the COVID-19 pandemic after realizing that West Texas provided a great climate for it.
Saffron can be sold for $9,000 a pound at a minimum, Valley Central reported.
The farm is called Meraki Meadows, and its saffron yield began with 20,000 Crocus Sativus bulbs, according to McDonald. These bulbs grow the Crocus flower, which is harvested for the saffron spice.
A Meraki Meadows family member, Brazos Beck, told Valley Central that the family was entirely unfamiliar with saffron when McDonald ordered the bulbs from the Netherlands.
“He ordered 20,000 bulbs and we had no idea what saffron was but he ordered the bulbs and then that Labor Day after COVID we started planting it, and it has just grown from there,” Beck said.
The farm consists of 10 family members who are able to hand pick and then process more than 2,000 flowers over the span of two days. Through the use of a mechanism attached to a tractor, they are also able to plant several bulbs at one time.
This mechanism helped the family cut planting time for the flowers, according to Valley Central. The time it takes to plant dropped from three weeks to just 42 hours.
Beck added that the flowers have to be picked daily or they could go bad.
“There’s so many flowers, I mean, we have to pick just about every day so that they don’t get wilted and get bad. Then once we pick them, we take them in here and get to separate them out piece by piece — like you tear the red part off and that’s the part that it’s actually used for,” Beck told Valley Central.
Another family member, Kaden McDonald, shared that the part of the process that takes the most time is the picking and processing.
“It’s definitely hard, and it takes lots of time,” Kaden said. “Just for a month, it’s a lot of work. After it grows you get to pick and this starts the hands-on experience, the picking and the processing. That’s the most time-consuming part.”
Meraki Meadows is currently the only commercial farm for saffron found in Texas, Valley Central reported. The family aims to be able to provide this spice around the country.
The name Meraki means putting some of yourself into the things you do, the website shares, and it was chosen to reflect the work the family does.
Family member Andrea McDonald told Valley Central that one of the best things about harvesting saffron has been how it brings the family together.
“That’s one of my favorite things about saffron. It just makes us all come together and spend a lot of time with each other, share a lot of stories, but I mean, the goal is to just survive this year and plant more and go to the next,” Andrea said.
While saffron does well in West Texas, the spice is mostly grown in Iran, Italy, France, and Spain.