I see photographs of bluer than blue skies
over a lake of molten gold.
I drink kahwa flavoured with almond and saffron
and add honey, sweetened by bees from the valley”
– Jhilmil Breckenridge (Ballads of Kashmir)
The more one talks about the beauty of Kashmir, the more they fall in love with it. One such treasure of Kashmir is its high quality saffron. Sown in fields that appear like an innocent sun-drenched dawn, draped in the mystic of golden hue and dew, the saffron is a gift of two Sufi aesthetics who came to Kashmir in late 11th and early 12th century. While their stay, both the foreigners were caught by an ailing sickness. A local tribal man aided them by finding a cure to their disease. Both the wanderers were grateful to the native man and offered him a saffron corm as reverence. Since then, saffron, along with almonds and walnut kernels, has become synonyms with Kashmir. The major crop of saffron in Kashmir is found in the town
of Pampore, widely known as the Kesar Valley. The world’s most expensive spice is harvested by a huge number of labour that work together to extract it from the dried stigmas of a perennial plant, Crocus Sativus. The saffron crocus is found only in Kashmir, and in some parts of Spain and Iran.
“Put a small amount of saffron in the bowl to see water change its colour”, she instructed.
“But so can the fake one right?” I asked in child-like curiosity. To answer my inquisitive question, she explained that if the saffron is real, the water will slowly and initially turn pale yellowish and gradually a more vibrant yellow. If this happens immediately after adding saffron, it’s fake. Also, the strands of pure saffron will secure its original colour in water, whereas the fake ones will lose it. And, thus I had learned the lesson of my lifetime.