Flavour your food with Saffron

Faisul Yaseen

Agriculture is the mainstay of Jammu and Kashmir economy. More than 70 percent of population in the State derives its livelihood from the Agriculture sector. The per capita income has risen four times since 1980-81 and the state agriculture domestic product has gone up six times over the same period.

Hundreds of growers in south Kashmir’s Pulwama and Anantnag district depend on saffron cultivation. It is an important cash crop among natural products of Kashmir and helps earn a good amount of foreign exchange for the country.

Saffron, a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus or saffron crocus, is known for its utility in medicines and household use particularly cooking. It is one of the most popular ingredients for colouring and flavouring popular Kashmir sweet tea of Kehwa, butter, cheese, medicines and various dishes of Wazwan, the multi-course Kashmir cuisine.

Saffron grows on a special soil except for a small quantity that is gown in Kishtwar. Pampore is believed to be a sleepy hamlet, which accounts for major production of saffron in this State because of its soil type and altitude.

The flower of the saffron plant is purple in colour bearing orange, red, trifled stigma, which when dried becomes the spice of commerce. One kg of dry saffron fetches around Rs 80,000.

Kashmir valley has a unique distinction of having its monopoly in saffron production in entire India although Saffron is native to Greece or Southwest Asia and was first cultivated in Greece.

The best quantity of saffron is obtained from red tips of the stigma. The remaining part of the stigma constitutes saffron of an inferior grade.

Saffron is cultivated in cold regions preferably with warm sub tropical climate with altitude of 1600 metres with rainfall of 40-45 cm per year. Heavy rains and frost at times of flow covering of the field is suitable for its cultivation. Soil must be well drained as it never thrives in water logged soils.

Saffron cultivation entails a huge initial investment. About 40-50 quintal of well developed feed corns are required for one hectare of land which involves an expenditure of about Rs 1 lakh in the first year of cultivation.

Preparation of land is carried out in March. The following season is confined to October and first weeks of November. The flowers are picked daily in the morning and stigmas along with styles are trimmed immediately after picking of flowers. Drying is carried out in the sunshine or by artificial heating.

The yield depends upon the number of flowers per unit area and number of cormlets per mother corm.

 

Saffron cultivation was expanded in the districts of Budgam, Baramulla and Rajouri without proper thought and planning resulting in utter failure of the experiment. The reason for the failure can be attributed to several factors like lack of proper planning, poor technology and shortage of agricultural experts on the subject.

However, there has been an appreciable increase in production of some major crops but there are significant variations in the performance of cash crops such as saffron.