Kashmir is preeminently acclaimed for a lot of its assets and chattels like its Dry Fruits, its rich History but one such gem that goes unnoticed is its Golden Spice Saffron. The state is not just a dominant producer of Saffron in India but is also one of the three foremost Saffron cultivators around the world. The Kashmir breed of Saffron spice is considered the purest of its form. For almost 2500 years, fields of Pampore near Srinagar have reared, refined and propagated the spice.
Saffron has not just been adorned in history for its mere flavour, in fact has been considered as an artistic articulate. From poets to monks, saints and even emperors have romanticized Saffron in different but unique ways. Some have worn clothes dyed in its color while some have worshiped it. Kashmiri Saffron, till today is considered as a holy commodity. History says, Mughal emperor Akbar was an adherent of Saffron’s smell and the larger-than-life windows in his palace opened to wide fields of the spice.
How Saffron travelled to Kashmir still remains a conundrum. While most used it as a garnish on their food, Saffron was also widely used in the sectors of perfumery, dyeing of clothes and even medicines. Chinese herbalist, Wan Zen made a literary reference about Saffron in around 3rd Century CE that said :
‘The habitat of saffron is in Kashmir, where people grow it principally to offer it to the Buddha. The flower withers after a few days and then Saffron is obtained. It is valued for its uniform red color’.
There are many legends that run about the introduction of Saffron to Kashmir. A famous and traditional one is that the spice was originally brought by two sufi abbots. The tale narrates that the two foreigners had fallen immensely sick and were looking for someone who could find a cure and when finally a chieftain did, the foreigners rewarded him with a saffron crocus bulb. Even till today these two ascetics are praised, thanked and offered prayers in the season of harvest. Not just this but the cultivators also built a shrine for the two saints in the Saffron famous town of Pampore.
The spice, for the first time, was put on the world map with corroboration after the J&K administration dignified and honoured the Certificate of Geographical Indication (GI) Registration for saffron grown in the Valley of Kashmir. This momentous decision not only brought more prominence and gravity to the export market of Saffron but also provided affirming reassurance to its cultivators.
Saffron is also universally harboured and endeared for the health benefits it bestows us with. From being a boost full antioxidant to calming PMS symptoms, this gorgeous spice has its own perks. Nicknamed as the “Sunshine Spice”, saffron is also used for its medicinal properties to treat serious ailments like depression and cancer. It also acts as a catalyst in lowering blood sugar levels and improving eyesight and memory in adults.
The Kashmiri saffron has a distinctive colour and aroma that sets it apart from the rest in the world. It's orange hue not only brings the best taste in food but also colour. The quality of Kashmiri Saffron is a paragon set and the reason why the world cannot talk about the spice without mentioning Kashmir.