Saffron, Kashmir's Precious Herb

Saffron, one of the most expensive and popular herbs of Kashmir, has always been globally treasured. 

“I must have saffron to color the warden pies; mace; dates? - none, that's out of my note; nutmegs, seven; a race or two of ginger, but that I may beg; four pound of prunes, and as many of raisins o' the sun.”
--William Shakespeare

Botanically named, as crocus sativus, the saffron flower can grow to 20–30 cm in length. This herb has light purple flower petals engraved with a hue of red silken stigma (threads) which protrude from the flower’s center and yellow filaments.  Typically they have up to four flowers, each with three crimson stigmas. When these stigmas are dried, they become the actual saffron which is used in cooking as a seasoning and coloring agent. The dried crimson red stigma is used as saffron.
Saffron threads contain a pigment carotene, crocin, which gives it a golden yellow color. Saffron’s thread-like stigmas should always be a uniform red-orange color; uneven color is a sign of inferior quality. It takes over 150000 flowers to produce 1 kg of saffron.
Saffron has been cultivated for well over 3000 years and is literally weighed like gold. Also known as “kong” in Kashmiri, “zaffaran” in Urdu and “kesar” in Hindi, it has a royalty of its own and is an essential spice in any good kitchen.
“Pampore” 11 km away from Kashmir’s capital, Srinagar, is famous for saffron cultivation and production through the ages. The mongra and lacha saffron of Kashmir is famous for its extra ordinary aroma (safranel), powerful coloring strength (crocin) and flavoring properties. 

As it is so very expensive, correct storage is important and indeed, if stored in a cool place, away from sunlight and in an air tight container it can retain its take and color properties for many years. In Kashmir, almost every kitchen shelf has a small box of saffron to use on special days. A famous scented beverage of Kashmir, known as “kehwa” is prepared from saffron which gives the beverage a sunset yellow color and subtle aroma which refresh the senses. Wazwan, the culinary world of Kashmiri cuisine is incomplete without saffron in it. It enriches dishes of Wazwan and lends its unique aroma. One of the famous culinary dish, “rogan josh” has its palpable color due to the subtle saffron threads in it. Saffron being highly precious is presented as a gift to friends and relatives in Kashmir on special occasions. 

Try this!
3 strands of saffron when taken with milk helps to cleanse and beautify skin resulting in a fair complexion. Another charm of it lies in coloring hair; it gives a red tone to hair serving as a natural dye.

Saffron is also widely used in the cooking of Middle Eastern, Spanish, French and Italian dishes. The spice is used in order to flavor rice dishes, risottos, pilafs, seafood, bouillabaisse, soups, teas, wine, buns, pound cake, and the Indian dessert kheer. The more saffron that one would use in a dish, the darker the colour will be. One has to be careful though, as too much saffron can create too strong a flavor.
Saffron has always been used in innumerable creative ways across India. For decades, it has been used in special food preparation, as a dye in textiles, in beauty products and in medicines. The mouth watering sweet dish in India “ras malai” gets its alluring aroma and creamy lemon color from saffron.
Undoubtedly, saffron has been found to be anti-carcinogenic and antioxidant preventing the formation of free radicals or cancer-creating cells in the body. Saffron detoxifies the mind too. Saffron petals are helpful as a cure for depression through aroma therapy and this has been scientifically proven. 

A study by Dwyer et al., (2011), on Herbal Medicines, shows that “saffron petals are anti-depressants”.  There is a saying in the Holy Quran; “saffron is excellent for the blood and strengthening to the soul. It eases pains in the joints. Aphrodisiac delicacy can be wonderfully prepared with the help of saffron.”
In the  traditional Chinese system, Saffron was used as an agent to improve blood circulation and cure bruises. In pregnancy, drinking milk with 3 or 4 strands of saffron added to it is advisable for improving the digestion of the baby as well as possibly affecting the baby’s skin development.  Early studies show that saffron protects the eyes from direct effects of bright light. Saffron has always been valuable. Thus, it can be truly concluded that saffron is a wonder herb; true to its colour, it lends golden qualities to not only cuisine, but also to health and living.   


More by :  Nayera Masoodi

Top | Health

Views: 3533      Comments: 9

Comment salam Nayera Masoodi ,It is not only based on research but also exhibits your patriotic zeal as I feel if you love your place of birth, and praise its assets. I congratulate you for you endevour and hope that you'll, in future also, keep on writing about the strengths of our beloved motherland KASHMIR -thnx
sardar shafiq khan devigali rawalakot kashmir

muhammad shafiq khan
07-May-2014 08:31 AM

Comment It is fantastic, and am happy to see that, contact I need you

Pervez Ahmed Mir
02-Feb-2014 02:35 AM

Comment Very good and

Pervez Ahmed Mir
02-Feb-2014 02:31 AM

Comment Mam,

Would love to know more from you about food and culture from Kashmir. It was a great much that I never knew!!

Sumit Ranjan
26-Aug-2012 02:36 AM

Comment Hey Nayera

We heard to this article of yours in the class, now its great to see it published here. Keep up the good work.


Ankita Chauhan
10-Aug-2012 06:40 AM

Comment Dear Sister,

It is not only based on research but also exhibits your patriotic zeal as I feel if you don't love your place of birth, you can't praise its assets. I congratulate you for you endevour and hope that you'll, in future also, keep on writing about the strengths of our beloved motherland KASHMIR, talking about its treasures and highlighting its rich heritage, culture, tradition, and customs. I also express my gratitude to you for purging the maligned image of Kashmir, which is nowadays only thought of as a horrifying and stinky place. Thanks a lot, keep up the spirit and GOD bless!

10-Aug-2012 05:51 AM

Comment Loved to read it!!! Please keep up the great work Nayera!!! Want to see many many more such articles from you :-)

Raine Claire
04-Aug-2012 11:04 AM

Comment Hey Ms. Nayera Massodi,
It indeed is a revelation that saffron has aphrodasiac qualities...this is poetic...the beautiful `basanti' colour and such wonderful qualities...I can feel the delicious taste and aroma of our very own `kesar' when I read this beautifully written article...your knowledge can surely put our beloved country on the world map...Looking forward to more of such exuberant writing and know-how...

04-Aug-2012 05:02 AM


04-Aug-2012 03:45 AM

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