From Croydon Radio to BBC Radio 4…

Croydon Saffron Central was created as the result of the exploration of Crocuses in Croydon by Ally McKinlay and the community at Croydon Radio.  It’s just been featured on BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme!

It started back in February 2013 with the original focus being spring flowering crocuses and a feature known as Croydon Crocus Watch.  Why watch crocuses in Croydon?  Because the Anglo-Saxon “Croh Denu” translates to “Crocus Valley”.

It was realised later the same year that the actual crocuses in question were the Crocus Sativus which produce Saffron stigmas.  The thinking was that the Romans farmed them in Croydon and used them in London.  Ally planted around 90 and about 1/3 bloomed.

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First Crocus Sativus harvest at Jellyfish Heights, Waddon-on-Wandle. 27 Flowers = 81 Saffron Strands (Picture by Ally McKinlay)

Discussing crocuses on the radio isn’t great viewing.  The discovery of a mapping app in 2015 called TiCL allowed Croydon Crocus watch to reach a new audience.  The community were encouraged to map crocuses in public spaces and use the GPS device to allow others to find them.

In July 2015, the idea for Croydon Saffron Central was born.  After approaching Councillors & Croydon Council it was agreed that a pop-up saffron farm could be created on the demolished civic office site of Taberner House.  Crowdfunding for the project was raised using Spacehive, raising just over £4,000 in 5.5 days!

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Our first harvest – 11,000 flowers from 19,000 corms. It collectively weighed 58 grams!! (Picture by Ally McKinlay)

Through sensational support from the Croydon community the site has gone on to see 3 saffron harvests, 2 RHS Awards, 2 Open House London Events, the creation of a bee haven, the creation of a giant floral rainbow flag and hosts numerous art installations with a focus on flowers, pollinators, rainbows and hearts.

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Chasing Rainbows – A summer project for Croydon Pridefest while the Crocus Sativus are sleeping. (Picture by Ally McKinlay)

Almost 5 years to the day when Ally McKinlay first broadcast “Made In Croydon” at Croydon Radio he’s found himself featuring on BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme as part of Britain’s Secret Saffron Story by Yasmin Khan.  Yasmin was born in Croydon so it’s been extremely fitting to hear her journey start and end here at this time.

Yasmin Khan     Ally at Beeb

Croydon Saffron Central will be making way for a residential development shortly but very much intends to live on and further explore the heritage of Croydons name and the culinary delights to be explored with saffron.  It will continue to promote the building of a healthy, happy and creative community appealing to all generations and backgrounds.

If you would like to know more about Croydon Saffron Central or visit please do get in touch.  Ally McKinlay remains available to fill Jarvis Cocker’s slot on BBC Radio 6 when required.

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Flower of Croydon by Ally McKinlay
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