Have you ever wondered what gives your favourite dishes that beautiful golden colour and amazing flavour? Well, let’s take a journey to Pampore, Kashmir, a small village about 14 kilometres from Srinagar, where fields are covered in purple crocus flowers. These flowers hide a treasure known as Kashmiri saffron, which is considered the world’s sweetest and most expensive spice.
Interestingly, the history of this spice can be traced back to the Persians who brought it from Iran to India. But what makes Kashmiri saffron so special, and why does it cost so much? Let’s explore its rich history and the hard work that goes into making it such a Costly delicacy.
The Origins of Kashmiri Saffron
To truly appreciate the magic of Kashmiri saffron, let’s step back in time. So, Our story begins in Pampore, where the Majestic Mountains cradle the fertile Lands. Here, the delicate crocus flowers, scientifically known as Crocus sativus, bloom in abundance, setting the stage for something truly extraordinary.
The Art of Harvesting Saffron
Now, let’s dive into the fascinating process of bringing Kashmiri saffron to your table. It all starts with the nimble fingers of villagers carefully picking the fragile flowers. As they pick each bloom, they sort them into three parts – the bright petals, the golden strands, and the precious red strands. It’s these red strands that make pure saffron, carrying its unique aroma and flavor. Surprisingly, it takes more than 150,000 flowers to produce just one kilogram of this precious spice.
Once collected, these valuable strands are dried over a charcoal fire. This careful process preserves the saffron’s incredible fragrance, flavour, and the vibrant colour that chefs and food lovers adore.
A Spice with Many Names and Legends
Kashmiri saffron isn’t just a spice; it’s a legend with many names across India. People call it ‘zafran’ in Urdu, ‘kesar’ in Hindi, ‘kong posh’ in Kashmiri, and ‘kungumapoo’ in Tamil. Beyond these names, it comes with intriguing stories of how it found its way to India.
One legend, from the 12th century, tells of two Sufi saints who gave a local leader a saffron bulb as a thank-you gift after he cured their illness. Another story suggests that the Persians introduced saffron to India from Iran around 500 B.C during their trade activities. Yet another tale links this spice to the glorious Mughal Empire, where it played a vital role in royal cuisine, adding a touch of sophistication to dishes.
Intricate, aromatic, and rich in history, Kashmiri saffron tells a story of India’s culinary heritage. Its journey from Persia to the Kashmiri fields has not only added flavour to dishes but also woven a narrative of tradition and hard work that continues in the saffron fields of Pampore. So, the next time you savour a dish adorned with the golden essence of Kashmiri saffron, remember the centuries of history and craftsmanship that have come together to delight your taste buds with this exceptional spice.