As part of the tradition that my friend Miriam and I try and uphold, which is to devote the first Tuesday of every month for a “fun day” (a practice which I highly recommend), we spent this lovely winter day exploring the Carmel Mountains. Such a day typically comprises elements of culture, shopping and eating, and we started this one at the Seeds of Zion Nursery in the beautiful community of Kerem Maharal, nestled in the hillside between Haifa and Zichron Yaakov. Our mission was to find plants for Miriam’s garden that are not water guzzlers, and this particular nursery specializes in wildflowers indigenous to this region, which are necessarily modest in their water consumption.
Avraham, brother of Zion, the nursery owner, took us on a grand tour of their rambling, mildly chaotic grounds to see the wild plants they are raising – wild cyclamens, narcissus and others – many of which were saved from construction sites and transplanted at the nursery until they can be restored to their native settings. So early on in the winter, few of the flowering plants were in bloom but the day was crisp and clear and being surrounded by so much greenery was exhilarating.
I, of course, was interested in every plant that is edible, and Avraham assured me in one sweeping generalization that just about everything on the extensive grounds was good for eating. To make his point, he led us to a row of delicate purple crocuses which are the source of saffron.
With his thick fingers Avraham extracted the red stigmas from between the purple petals and handed them to us. “Let it sit on your tongue for a minute”, he instructed us. The aroma of perfume from that little crimson fiber filled my entire head.