the World’s Most Expensive Spice
If you visit tourist places in Goa and Kerala, you can visit spice gardens.
Some plantation owners have improvised their spice gardens into tourist attractions.
You can see a variety of plants where different spices come from.
The guide will answer your questions and clarify your doubts.
Your host will serve you authentic local meals in virgin surroundings and arrange a traditional dance.
We Indians use a lot of spices in their daily food.
But most of us do not know where the spices come from.
Someone suggested that I should write about the spices in my blog.
So here we go.
This one on Kesar (Saffron) is another in a series on Spices of India.
India produces the world’s best Kesar (Saffron).
What is Kesar (Saffron)
Kesar is derived from the flower of the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus), a domesticated species of crocus in the family Iridaceae.
The three stigmas and the style (stalk connecting then to the rest of the plant) are dried and used as spice.
About 1.5 lac (1,50,000) flowers are required to get one kg of Saffron.
Where it comes from
The world’s best Kesar comes from India, from Kashmir to be precise.
This is the reason, in India, you can see the plants only in Kashmir.
Some spice gardens do plant Kesar for their visitors.
Kesar is widely used as a spice for colouring and flavor.
It imparts a distinctive aroma and a beautiful golden colour.
It is used in a wide array of recipes all over the world.
Kesar has several therapeutic properties.
It is used for stomach ailments and as an antispasmodic.
It helps digestion and increases appetite.
It relieves renal colic and reduces stomach aches.
It is used for flu-like infections, depression and hypatomegaly.
It regulates women’s menstruation and helps conception.
Since antiquity, Kesar is believed to be a general tonic, an excellent sexual stimulant and an aphrodisiac.
Uses as Dye
In ancient times, Kesar was a very rare and expensive substance.
It was used as a dye by the Royalty.
It was considered a sacred flower in ancient Crete.
Greek gods and goddesses wore gowns dyed with Saffron, so did Buddhist monks.
Kesar is also the colour of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The entire Kesar comes from the domesticated plant which originated in Crete.
It is sterile and its purple flowers do not produce viable seeds.
The corms (underground bulb-like starch-storing organs) are dug up, broken apart, and replanted in June.
After a period of dormancy during the summer, five to eleven narrow and nearly vertical green leaves – up to 40 cm (16 in) in length – emerge from the ground.
Purple buds appear in autumn.
In October, the buds open into brilliant lilac flowers.
Kesar crocuses bloom within a narrow time span of one or two weeks.
After they flower at dawn, the flowers wilt quickly by the end of the day.
And therefore, they have to be collected fast.
Pampore – 14 km away from Srinagar, the summer capital of Kashmir – is the place where the world’s best Kesar grows.
If you go there , you will be greeted by a stone bearing the inscription, “World’s Best Saffron Grows Here”.
Unfortunately, the yield of Kesar in Pampore has steadily and gradually decreased by more than a half in about 15 years.
Something needs to be done.
If you are a connoisseur of good and exotic food, try to take Kesar tea (preferably without milk) or Kesar milk.
Both are good and healthier substitutes of tea and coffee.
How to use Kesar
Soak filaments of Kesar for a few minutes in a little warm water (4 strands per cup of finished product).
Rub well till dark golden color develops.
Add to tea, or milk, or sweets and bring the concoction to a boil.
Simmer for 5 minutes.
Cool in fridge, if necessary.
Add a few strands of Kesar on the surface for decoration.