The debate about which among the Irani and Kashmiri Saffron is better has been going on for years. Even though Kashmiri Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, its counterpart isn’t far behind the competition, contributing about 88% to the world’s saffron production in 2020. Despite the massive production rate of Irani Saffron, Kashmiri Saffron still holds its ground as a product of higher quality. This may be due to multiple reasons which we will discuss further in detail. To understand where the difference lies, it’s important to know where the similarity is. Let’s go centuries back and learn about how saffron came into existence in the first place.
HISTORY OF SAFFRON:
The origin of saffron surrounds a great deal of uncertainty with historians divided between Iran and Greece. The theory that is widely accepted is that Saffron was discovered in Greece during Bronze Age (3300 BC to 1200 BC). Another theory is that it originated in Iran. Even its name has Persian roots where it was cultivated by humans for the first time.
Its travel to South and East Asia has a similar scenario of apprehension with contrasting theories, each suggesting its version is valid. The generally recognized theory that is deduced from Persian records proposes that Persian rulers after conquering South and East Asia built gardens and parks for their leisure. These parks were filled with saffron and other varieties of flowers supplied directly from Persia.
Kashmiris, on the contrary, believe that during the 12th century two foreign Sufi saints, Khwaja Masood Wali and Hazrat Sheikh Shariffudin, while wandering through the valley, fell sick. A local tribal chieftain cured them and as a reward was gifted a saffron corm. This theory is denied by a Kashmiri poet and scholar Mohammed Yusuf Teng who argues that saffron has been cultivated in Kashmir for more than 2000 years.
Well, the theories don’t stop here. Ancient Chinese Buddhists believe that Madhyântika or Majjhantika, an arhat Indian Buddhist missionary was sent to Kashmir in the 5th century BC. He sowed and cultivated the first saffron crop from where it was sent to other parts of India.
With multiple theories presenting different narratives about the origin of Saffron, no evidence proves one right over the other. However, the one approved by most is that Kashmiri Saffron is an extension of Irani Saffron.
THE ONGOING BATTLE BETWEEN KASHMIRI AND IRANI SAFFRON
Now that you are aware that both the saffron varieties are the same, you must be wondering where does the Irani counterpart lack behind.
Kashmiri Saffron’s feature that sets it apart from every other variety available in the world is its thick stigma head. The most phenomenal characteristic that makes it an absolute favorite of all is its high percentage of Crocin, picrocrocin, and Safranal. These components deserve the credit for blessing the Kashmiri Saffron with the darkest color and strong earthy smell. Unlike its competing varieties, it’s grown in lesser quantity making it special and exotic. The saying that “the rare things are most precious” fits Kashmiri Saffron perfectly. No matter how much other varieties are grown and consumed, Kashmiri Saffron is still admired and prized by all.