Kashmir saffron will get GI tag

Pushpesh Pant

Khushboo si aa rahi hai kahin zafran ki,
Khirki khuli shayad koi unke makaan ki!

(The mildly intoxicating whiff of saffron is within the air. It appears a window within the beloved’s home has opened).

These traces, learn a while again, appear significantly apt in the intervening time. Kesar from Kashmir has, in the end, been granted the geographical indicator (GI), and one hopes that it will encourage our compatriots to take delight on this distinctive product of a province that has been known as Paradise on Earth. Let the world share the chic aroma, flavour, enchanting hue and rejoice.

Kesar is the most costly spice by weight on the earth. The most premium high quality instructions a value of as much as Rs 5,00,000 per kg!

Hopefully, this recognition will encourage shoppers to take some bother to tell apart between actual and faux saffron. Many endure from the misperception that Spanish saffron is the ‘best in the world’, and our personal produce is inferior to it. This canard has originated due to large-scale adulteration in saffron from Kashmir. The GI tag ought to go a great distance in direction of restoration of this unique ingredient to its rightful place of delight. Kesar, saffron or zafran, name it by any identify, is the most costly spice by weight on the earth. Almost 45,000 flowers contribute their fragrant and flavourful stamens to make up this measure. The most premium high quality instructions a value of as much as Rs5,00,000 per kg!

The indiscriminate use of saffron, nonetheless, has bred familiarity that makes us underestimate its virtues. We encounter the ingredient in ras malai, jalebi, and even kesariya paneer tikka. Few can distinguish between actual saffron (good high quality) and adulterated stuff. Many suppose that saffron is overrated as a result of what they’ve been uncovered to is substandard produce.

Romantic photos are far faraway from the back-breaking job of saffron farming. It is restricted to a small variety of households, who dwell within the adjoining villages. Joint household system survives by some means towards all odds and political turbulence to maintain the commerce. The harvest season may be very brief. The flowers develop very near the bottom and need to be picked squatting or in kneeling place. The saffron strands, often known as zarda and lachcha, need to be then separated manually from the flower.

When a brief documentary shoot took me to Pampore, close to Srinagar, a few years again, I used to be amazed to see how specialised intricate duties like sorting, grading, drying and packing are performed in confined areas with all relations chipping in cheerfully. During one other such journey in Kishtwar, we encountered the native saffron. The host generously gifted us a small casket of the very best quality — we’re not being ungrateful, nevertheless it was no match to its Pampore cousin.

Land of violet blooms

Not removed from Srinagar lies the township of Pampore — the identify derived from authentic Sanskrit Padmapura — City of Lotuses. Emperor Jehangir chronicled in his diary how overpowering was the perfume of the violet-petalled blossoms in autumn when the ‘crop’ lined like a carpet lots of of acres of flatlands. The lover of fine life additionally thought that the peak of ecstasy might be skilled on a full moon evening in Pampore in autumn, when numerous blossoms bloomed stretching so far as one may see. Legend has it that zafran was dropped at the Valley a while in circa fifth century after the beginning of Christ by two itinerant Sufi saints from Persia. As the folklore has it, the saints had been each cured of a painful continual ailment by a neighborhood doctor, who was gifted by the grateful sufferers with a bulb of the uncommon flower with miraculous properties. The transmission from Iran is kind of believable as Kashmir is referred to in some early texts as Iran Sagir (smaller Iran). Its delicacies and crafts, language and manners carry a deep Persian imprint.

Kashmiri Pandit custom, nonetheless, narrates one other story. Great doctor Vagbhatt is as soon as mentioned to have cured a serpent demigod disguised within the human type of a painful eye illness. It is from this celestial affected person that he obtained this treasured present. It seems that practitioners of ayurveda in India had been acquainted with this ingredient and its medicinal properties as it’s described in some element in Bhavaprakasa Nighantu — conventional Indian materia medica courting again to the 4th century.

Strands of fine well being

Time-tested properties of saffron are believed to be restorative, rejuvenating and by implication aphrodisiac. It is an important ingredient in ayurvedic preparations like chyawanprash. The royals in Rajasthan commissioned their distilleries to supply liquor for particular events. The grasp craftspersons got here up with kesar-kasturi — a potent mix of saffron and musk. Saffron is believed to have a heat property — garam taseer, and it’s primarily a winter spice. The author of those traces recollects mom fortifying us in freezing winter to construct immunity towards cough and chilly with milk laced with kesar, cardamom and almonds. When kesar was not at hand, a pinch of turmeric, aka poor man’s saffron, changed it.

Saffron is used to complement and garnish each vegetarian and non-vegetarian recipes within the subcontinent. It is unattainable to think about a biryani that’s cooked with out it. A number of strands are sometimes rigorously sprinkled to make the diner imagine that he’s being handled with unique components. Kesari, the rawa halwa, was clearly named after the ingredient that lent it color and style. More usually than not, this confection is these days artificially colored and only some strands of saffron could also be used as garnish.

Masala chai could have only a trace of its essence however the kahwa in Kashmir that’s poured in a lightweight golden stream from a samovar depends on it to create magic on the chilly winter mornings. Kesar adorns the wealthy bread sheer maal that’s prized in Lucknow and Hyderabad. It enriches the thickened milk garnished with almond flakes. Frozen desserts like kulfi and desserts like kheer and phirni appear incomplete with out kesariya garnish.

In Benaras, we had been as soon as handled to a tasty kesar bati, a confection conjured out of saffron-laced clotted cream.

The ubiquitous bundi ka laddoo turns into extraordinary motichoor by incorporating just a few strands of the fragrant substance. Lassi and thandai, of their saffron-laced model, rank a notch increased than the plain stuff. In Bengal, saffron provides a contact of refined class to prawns cooked in coconut cream and a zafrani fish curry that appears to have been influenced by Mughal culinary practices. In Maharashtra, kesar is an important ingredient together with inexperienced cardamom seeds within the delectable shrikhand.

Beyond delicacies

It isn’t solely within the realm of delicacies that saffron is valued. It is taken into account to epitomise excellence and class in numerous fields. It is the color symbolising valour, sacrifice in addition to renunciation and selfless service. Kesariya banna, the chivalrous younger warrior wearing saffron-coloured apparel, is extolled in Rajasthani people songs that resonate within the huge desert far faraway from the Vale. One of Mira Bai’s celebrated bhajans makes use of the metaphor of saffron to reward virtues like love and compassion. Kesar, known as kumkum in Sanskrit, is historically used at nearly all ritual worship. The auspicious tikka placed on the brow was to be ready with saffron combined with a substance to deliver out the intense color. Like chandan (sandal), kesar, too, was an indispensable a part of the shringar — formal make-up.

Perfumers have used it for generations in seductive perfumes. Tobacconists in Kannauj, the town well-known for Indian ittar (fragrance), have used it for generations to create intriguing perfumes. Ittada Khan, Muttada Khan, in days passed by, used strands of zafran to aromatise its mushki dana ilayachi dana tobacco pellets draped in silver leaves. Sugandhis like Dharm Pal Prem Chand and Satya Pal proceed with the follow of their costlier merchandise Baba or Tulsi chaap. Kesar is rendered stronger blended with silver leaf and different fragrant substances. Lest you begin accusing us of selling a narcotic, allow us to hasten so as to add the silver leaf-draped saffron-flavoured inexperienced cardamom seeds are additionally obtainable!

Guerlin in France has named one among its upmarket perfumes as Shalimar, doffing its proverbial hat to saffron from Kashmir. While saffron is absent in East Asian and South East Asian cuisines, it’s utilized in delicacies within the Middle East and Europe. In Italy, risotto is subtly flavoured with saffron and in Spain, it makes paella and lots of different sea meals delicacies extra tempting. The strands of saffron make each dish a joyous festive fare.

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