I received an e-mail this past week from a dear friend who lives in New York.
“They’re finally here,” she wrote. “The crocuses have broken thru the ground, the first real sign that spring is truly here.” She urged me to have a look at the photo that was attached to her mail.
You have to understand the background in order to comprehend the utter delight and excitement of seeing these purple cloaked flowers majestically and almost magically emerge through the cold and hard earth. It was a very difficult winter for the East Coast of the US. Sleet, ice and seemingly endless snow storms predominated, breaking records for accumulated inches or rather feet of snow, as well as for the lowest temperatures recorded in years. Air traffic was in danger of coming to a halt and the roads were perilous. This all contributed to a further hardening and solidification of the already frozen ground. But now, the delicate looking crocus, accompanied by its sword shaped grey-green leaves has finally succeeded in breaking past the gloom of winter.
After seeing the photo sent by my friend I felt compelled and inspired to make a sugar crocus, but I found no tutorials on how to do so. I kept looking at the photo and decided to give it a try on my own. After all, I could always throw my kitchen made flower away with no one the wiser. Since all tutorials begin with observing the subject at hand, I did just that using the emailed photo for my reference. The crocus seemed to have three main parts: the yellow pollen filled stamens that are used in the production of saffron, the upside down tear shaped petals and the two-toned leaves that resembled blades of grass shooting up through the soil. Each flower had six petals guarding over the four tall stamens – one set of three followed by a second set of three.
I started by covering the top portion of floral wire with yellow gum paste.
Then I painted each “stamen” sparingly with edible glue and dipped the gum paste covered wire into yellow colored corn flour.
Finally I bound each four together with green floral tape, careful to allow time for drying between each step.
I must say that I was quite proud of myself, although a bit concerned that the stamens might be too large for the flowers that I was planning to make.
Six purple petals encompass the stamens as if attempting to protect the source of the valuable spice. I cut the petal shapes using a similarly shaped leaf cutter, but the greater difficulty was the veining. The crocus petal is quite sleek and my universal veiner produces a much more wrinkled result. Well, no one is perfect, I thought. My crocuses will just have to make due with wrinkles. After cutting and veining I placed each petal in a small piece of aluminum foil to provide for a more natural look as you can see in the photo below.
I left the purple petals to dry overnight, but something felt very wrong. Only hours later did I realize that I totally forgot to wire the petals! Not being one to enjoy waste and not really wanting to do the petals all over again, I thought erringly that perhaps I could just glue the petals onto the stamens. I was totally wrong. They just wouldn’t stick at all! So very frustrating and a lesson I will not soon forget! So on with a new batch, this time with wires inserted and extras prepared just in case of breakage.
After all the parts had dried, I added the crocus petals onto the already bundled stamens. That left me with the blades of grass, leaves or whatever the botanically correct terminology would be. I added green gum paste to the wires that I coated in glue and slightly shaped them pressing the sides and the top with the aid of a knife and left everything perched on a white Styrofoam cube.
My experiment in very do-it-yourself sugar crocus making had come to an end. Now all that was needed was a setting in which to display them. With no cake waiting in the wings, I searched and found a ceramic pot that I had made on a pottery wheel last summer. I filled the pot with Styrofoam, covered that with a thin layer of brown sugar dough, coated that lightly with edible glue and sprinkled a bit of yellow corn flour on top. Then I planted my two purple crocuses, both forever in full bloom.