Ourika and saffron

P1010138Driving the back road between Demnate and Ourika, we have these wonderful views of snow dusting the high Atlas, with green fields and harvested fields alternating below.

The main road of Ourika is a bit of a come down: it feels a little like an American strip mall, with hotels, restaurants, shops and workshops all stretched unendingly along the road.  It’s hard to see how a saffron growing center or an olive oil museum would fit in here.

In fact, the saffron center is about a kilometer down a side road, with another turning off that road.  Suddenly we’re pulling up in front of a gate that seems to have no space for visitors.  We park and open the gate and find ourselves in something like a secret garden.

December is high tangerine season, and these trees are loaded with fruit.  The evening sun picks out each “golden apple of the sun,” supposedly the fruit of Hesperides’ mythical garden.
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Pathways lined with rosemary or lavender keep the evening air sweet, and provide a secondary harvest, with herbs drying on racks behind the main display center.
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James, resister of goats, is the first to spot this small herd on the other side of the path:
P1010144 P1010148More permaculture! Multiple layers of productivity, with livestock integrated into the growing cycle: eating pruned tree branches, contributing manure to the fields.

But we are here to see the saffron: first the small display fields at the front:
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Not much to look at now, but imagine this field in early fall, with the saffron in flower:

 (web catch of a field in Taliouine, Morocco)

Even near the children’s school, October crocuses spring up in the fall:
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The owner of this land is a medical man based in Casablanca, who has managed to grow truffles on about ten acres outside Immouzer Kandahar, near Ifrane.  Mohamed Amine manages this property for him, and has a part to play in the truffle farming as well.  We hope to meet up with him in Ifrane or Immouzer sometime this winter.P1010150

In the meantime, Nancy is going to try growing saffron in her garden in southern California, so Amine digs up a few bulbs to send home with her.  (Will they get past the airport sniffer dogs?)
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