The state of Jammu and Kashmir is the place where saffron is predominately cultivated in India. In fact Kashmir is considered one of the three prominent cultivating places of saffron all over the world. Kashmiri saffron is seen as the legend of the saffron species where it has been grown in the fields of Pampore near Srinagar for close to 2500 years. (The name pampore is derived from Padmapur meaning (lotus city).
According to historical evidences, saffron was brought to India by the Persian rulers around 500.B.C. The Persian rulers transplanted the Persian saffron crocus corns to the Kashmiri soils, once they conquered Kashmir. However according to the traditional Kashmiri legends, saffron was brought to the region by two sufi ascetics, Khawja Masood wali (r.a) and Sheikh Sharif-u-din wali (r.a) during the 11th and 12th centuries A.D. Both the foreigners having fallen sick beseeched a cure for illness from a local tribal chieftain. When the chieftain obliged, the two holy men reputedly gave them a saffron crocus bulb as payment and thanks. To this day grateful prayers are offered to the two saints during the saffron harvesting season in late autumn. The saints indeed have a golden-domed shrine and tomb dedicated to them in the saffron trading town of Pampore,India. However, the famous Kashmiri poet and scholar Mohammed Yusuf Teng, differed from this history of saffron and stated that the plant had been cultivated in Kashmir for more than two millennia. The Kashmiri tantric Hindu epics of that time mention about saffron cultivation as well. â€In the beautiful valley of Kashmir, fields of crocus sativus have heralded the dawn for close to 2500 years.”
Kashmiri saffron is valued all over the world for its fine quality and a large part of the saffron produced in Kashmir is exported to various countries. The ideal environment for cultivation of saffron is cool dry climate and rich soil with excellent drainage and organic content, and Kashmiri land is famous for all these rich qualities. There are three grades of saffron available in Indian market and they are known as Saffron Lachha, saffron Mongra and saffron Zarda. Saffron is not grown on any of the other fertile alluvial plateaus of Kashmir, and the people of Pampore are fond of saying there is a certain magical element in the soil of Pampore which helps the flowers to bloom and the stigmas to be imbued with aroma.
The stigmas of saffron cultivated in Kashmir are extremely long and with a thicker head. They are also of a deep red color. The size of the stigmas indicates the inherent suitability of the soil and climate for this product. The saffron that we supply to all consumers and traders is Kashmiri saffron which is the worldâ€™s best saffron known for its exotic aroma and flavor in culinary preparations around the globe. Kashmiri saffron has an extremely dark maroonish-purple hue, which suggests the saffronâ€™s mind blowing flavor, aroma and coloring power
While Iran accounts for about 70% of total world production, the quality of the Kashmiri saffron is considered the best and the finest. In Kashmir too it is only the karevas of Pampore and the kishtwar valley in Jammu province that is gifted with the rare spice. The rich aroma of saffron marks all celebrations in Kashmir, as the Saffron Kehwa a traditional Kashmiri beverage is a must on such occasions. No festivity is considered complete without it.
During late autumn, people of Pampore with tens of thousands of villagers wearing home spun clothes, picking flowers at a furious pace, and heaping them into wicker baskets. Their chatter and laughter rings through the clear air, old, men smoke hubble-bubble under the trees, and all you can do is marvel at a sight like no other anywhere in the world. The sacks of flowers are taken home, or to laborers who toil through the night,
stripes away the insides of the flowers. Nothing is wasted. The petals are eaten as a vegetable, animals are given the stems, and of course, the red stigmas alone are the purest Kashmiri saffron-The golden herb.
The history of Kashmiri saffron reveals Indiaâ€™s age old affair with saffron. No other civilization in the world has been influenced so profoundly by saffron and its amazing properties. The people of India have enough proud to say that â€œSaffron is Indiaâ€™s spice of life”