“Autumn that year painted the countryside in vivid shades of scarlet, saffron and russet, and the days were clear and crisp under harvest skies.”
What do you see in your mind when you read the above line? I can only imagine a vast green/brown field with bloomed saffron crocus at the start of winters in Kashmir.
Kashmir-the land ‘owned by God’, has been decorated with all the beauty and rarity and Saffron is one of those rare and beautiful things that grow here in Kashmir. Kashmir is a proud owner of the world’s most precious and expensive spice-Saffron.
The ‘Red-Gold’ has been grown in the fields of Pampore near Srinagar for close to 2500 years. It is believed to be one of the oldest crop that is grown in Kashmir. Saffron forms a remarkable adornment of the beautiful valley of Kashmir.
Kashmir is India’s prime producer of Saffron and Pampore itself accounts for 80% of the main produce. Pampore has rightly lived up to its reputation of being called the ‘Saffron Town’.
Saffron blooms over the course of a brief three weeks in the fall every year. Carefully plucking the crimson stamen which changes the colour and flavor of the palates is a labour-intensive process. Hundreds of men, women and children descend on the undulating plains to reap the blooms of the saffron flowers, extract the stigmas, dry them over heat and hand pack with love, for sale.
Among several names given to Saffron -Zafran, Kesar, Kang, Kang Posh are the widely used ones. The hue of the flowers of Saffron represents freshness and purity and is world famous for its delectable taste and aroma. Among several other noted uses, saffron is widely famous as a colouring agent.
Who doesn’t love a colorful and flavourful melting pot of tender meat, rice and dry fruit? A lovely plate of Biriyani is literally incomplete without Saffron. Its delectable taste and aroma is world famous and favours many delicious cuisines. Starting from rice dishes to various sweets, saffron has been used everywhere. Even the much-admired ‘Kahwa’ tea of Kashmir is incomplete without the use of Saffron for its olfactory property.
Saffron is that secret ingredient which has enhancing properties be it for any particular dish, skin or hair. Do you at times envy the fair skin of Kashmiris?
In Kashmir saffron is extensively used to clear skin color and keep it healthy.
But, we don’t encourage the infatuation of some people with fair skin. Remember, every skin colour is beautiful and the color of your skin cannot define the color of your heart.
The king of spice, Saffron has also been used for many centuries for its myriad medicinal properties. Which is why saffron is by far one of the oldest herbs ever used for medicinal purposes in the history of mankind and is still being used in some regions of the world.
Besides being used as a spice and medicine the flowers of the valley is also engaged in the production of dyes, and perfumes.
Once in Pampore, along with the two popular shrines, the lovely sight of millions of purple pods of saffron flower blooms, emanating the sweet scent of autumn to the passersby is undoubtedly the main attraction.