Your Saffron Might Come From New England, Not the Middle East — Here’s Why

A handful of U.S.-based spice companies are sourcing from domestic growers

Leah Koenig
Heated
Published in
7 min readNov 30, 2020

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A Jamaican man harvesting ramps for Burlap & Barrel
This Jamaica resident along with his colleagues spend each year tapping maple trees in the Adirondacks; this year, their return home was delayed because of the pandemic. Omar, pictured, ended up helping Burlap & Barrel harvest ramps before returning to Jamaica when the season was over. Photo: Burlap & Barrel via Instagram

Earlier this year, Burlap & Barrel pulled off a culinary magic trick: They extended ramp season. The New York City-based spice company has made a name for itself among chefs and home cooks by selling direct-sourced, single-origin — and wildly delicious spices — from across the globe. But this past May, instead of flying to India for turmeric, Egypt for caraway seeds, or Guatemala for cardamom (thanks to Covid-19 travel restrictions), co-founders Ethan Frisch and Ori Zohar drove due north to the Adirondack Mountains to forage ramp leaves during the wild plant’s famously fleeting season.

Frisch, a chef and humanitarian, and Zohar, a social entrepreneur, founded Burlap & Barrel in an effort to collapse the distance between consumers and sustainable spice farmers. But as it turns out, sometimes those farmers work surprisingly close to home.

“We partnered with a maple syrup grower because maple forests have the perfect environment for ramps,” said Frisch of Burlap & Barrel’s dried ramps. The farm’s crew of seasonal workers from Jamaica had just finished tapping the sugar bush when Covid-19 hit and the team got stuck stateside. “We ended up hiring them…

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Leah Koenig
Heated
Writer for

writer, cookbook author, lapsed twitter skeptic.