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Know your saffron (part 1 of 2)

Updated: Sep 1, 2022

A short and sweet guide to the world's most expensive spice.

Picture of original Kashmiri saffron

Also known as the "sunshine spice", saffron as one usually sees it, are the removed stigmas of the crocus sativus or the saffron flower. Saffron is mainly grown in Iran, Afghanistan, Kashmir (northern India), Spain and bit in Morocco and southern Italy. While generally Iranian saffron is considered as the best, only do the connoisseurs know that the rare Kashmir saffron - priced around 25% more than the best from Iran and constituting a mere 1% of the global produce, is it strongest and most potent strain of saffron.

The pictures below present the flower and the final saffron as one gets it.

Saffron (crocus sativus) flowers prior to harvesting.
Saffron (crocus sativus) flowers

The saffron flowers are plucked during harvest season, usually the month of October until mid-November when the flowers are in full bloom.

Saffron flowers plucked from the field
Saffron flowers plucked from the field

After plucking, the pistils are removed from each flower - a laborious manual process. It takes around 150 hand-plucked and hand-sorted flowers to obtain 1 gram of saffron.

65,000 thousand flowers for a pound of saffron
45,000 thousand flowers for a pound of saffron

The following picture presents the pistil of a saffron flower. The crimson part, the one with most of the aroma, colour and healthy goodness, is separated by hand to obtain the red saffron strands which is generally how one sees saffron. The crimson red section is the stigma, also known as Mogra/Mongra in Kashmir or Sargol in Iran.

Kashmir Mongra Saffron flower anatomy
Anatomy of the saffron pistil. The crimson red part is separated by hand.

Once the crimson-red section or the saffron stigma is separated, the final, pure, hand-separated saffron threads are ready to be packed and are purchased by customers via brick-and-mortar and online stores.

Packaging of Grade-A Kashmir Saffron
Grade-A Kashmir Saffron by Aagur

To know of different types of saffron and how to quickly determine which saffron is the best and purest, do read the next in this series "Know your saffron (part 2 of 2)".

In the interim, you may explore Aagur's exclusive Grade-A Kashmir saffron from a single-origin plantation in Pampore, Kashmir.

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