Get to Know Pampore, the Saffron Town: A Journey of Discovery

Get to Know Pampore, the Saffron Town: A Journey of Discovery

Get to Know Pampore, the Saffron Town: A Journey of Discovery

In the fall, when the weather cools, Pampore, an ancient town in the Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir, is awash in a sea of purple blossoms. But these blooms aren’t the typical sort. These are Zaffran, the most costly spice in the world, harvested from these blossoms. The first thing that struck anyone upon reaching Pampore is of a sea of violet, with flowers sweeping from the road to the far, silent, stony mountains; the saffron collectors’ clothing providing occasional splashes of color. 

One whiff of saffron in Kashmir and you’ll know you’re in Pampore. Violet fields of flowers add to the allure of Pampore saffron, as does the subtle aroma of their nectar. That doesn’t mean it’s the only scent wafting through the air either. As soon as you set foot in the valley, a plethora of sensations begin to prick at your nostrils, one being its enchanting culture. Kashmir’s saffron represents the sophistication of its cuisine, the warmth of its mountain people, and the bounty of their interactions with nature. 

My mind immediately goes to a well-known song when I think saffron. 

Kesariya Tera Ishq Hai Piya 

Rang Jaaun Jo Main Hath Lagaun 

On the way to Pahalgam, you can stop in this Kashmiri town known for its saffron. Seeing these violet blossoms in bloom and the saffron harvest in action would be a treat to the eyes. High-quality saffron is grown in this town thanks to the suitable climate and its soil conditions.  

Pampore’s dry, low-humidity climate and fertile soil make it an ideal setting for saffron production. Manual or mechanical planting occurs in July, August, and September, with harvest occurring eight weeks later in late October to early NovemberKashmir’s saffron harvest normally lasts a few weeks. Pampore and other parts of Kashmir are home to many saffron farms, and around harvest time the fields are bursting with purple blossoms and the enticing scent of saffron. The saffron production prefers full sun to partial shade, therefore it is best to put it in a dry, open field. 

Saffron comes from the Arabic word Zafaran, which meaning “yellow.” Saffron, a member of the cumin family, is one of the world’s most exorbitant spices. Zaffran in Urdu, Kong in Kashmiri, or Kunggumapoo in Tamil are only a few of the hundreds of names for Kesar; nonetheless, the magnificence of the spice remains the same throughout languages. Similarly, to how the name of the spice can change, the way it is presented can also change. 

Kashmiri kahwa, a green tea infused with saffron, is a well-known example of the spice’s culinary use. It’s adored by many, and a single taste will convince you of that. This elixir is patiently brewed with cardamom and cinnamon in a copper samovar, a cup, an evidence of the region’s enduring links to Central Asia. The dish is finished with a drizzle of honey and often almonds for garnish. It’s also a staple of the elaborate Kashmiri dinner spread known as wazwan. 

Saffron (scientific name: Crocus sativus) is a shrub whose purple blooms are harvested for its spice-like stigmas. It is harvested by hand from flowers for its three stigmas, which are then dried. The acid crocetin and the crocin it contains give the stigmas their characteristic orange hue. 

When shopping for saffron, keep in mind that the best quality kesar is bright red in color, has a scent similar to honey, and has a little musky flavor. 

Thousands of blooms must be harvested in order to yield just a few grams of saffron. A kilogram of saffron requires 150,000 crocus blossoms, or 440,000 saffron stigmas, which are harvested by hand. But the low yield has discouraged farmers over the past decade, and many have moved on to higher-yielding crops like apples and walnuts. From about 5,707 hectares in 1996, the area used for growing saffron has decreased rapidly to 3,875 hectares in 2010-2011. Despite the hardships endured by saffron farmers, the royal spice’s enchantment and mystery have been inextricably linked with the glory and splendour of Kashmir. 

Through the ages, these enormous saffron fields have inspired poets, rulers, and lovers with their enticing aroma and vibrant hue. Kashmiris have long taken great pride in this ancient crop. 

Jammu and Kashmir also hosts a three-day annual cultural festival called the Saffron Festival. Tourists can visit saffron fields and buy Kashmiri saffron straight from the farmers starting the last week of October. 

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