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  • Writer's pictureGeetanjali Chakraborty

Saffron Tales: Cultivating the Golden Spice in Your Own Garden


As an Ayurveda Practitioner, nurturing herbs in my garden holds profound significance for me. Receiving plants as gifts from friends carries a special meaning, as their blossoming reminds me of my friends. 


Imagine my exhilaration upon finding saffron plants at the Mountain View Farmers Market, considering that for years, during my trips to India, I've relied on my annual supply of saffron couriered specifically from Amin Bin Khalik store in Srinagar, knowing that the best saffron grows in Kashmir.


I've experimented with various saffron sources such as Kirkland (Costco), Spanish saffron (Trader Joe's), Persian saffron (Iranian/Persian stores), and even Organic saffron online. Yet, in my personal experience, nothing rivals the quality of Kashmiri saffron.



Cultivating a saffron plant in my garden proved to be an entirely novel experience. I'm certain that flower quality varies depending on geographical location. Typically, the dried red saffron stigmas within the flower are what's used as a spice. Moreover, the plant demands minimal maintenance and blooms in the Fall.


Geographical Classification of Saffron in Ayurveda:


The Ayurvedic source text Bhavaprakash, in its chapter Karpuradi Varga, distinguishes between saffron varieties based on geography. It identifies three primary source locations known to the writers at the time: Kashmir, Balochistan (Bahlika), and Iran/Persia (Parasikadesa). Among these, saffron sourced from Kashmir was esteemed as the highest in quality.


Recent findings reveal that saffron also thrives in regions like Spain and France. Due to its rarity, its stigmas command a high price, with a mere 2-gram box fetching over $10. Remarkably, only a few strands are needed for use at a time. For instance, when preparing my children's spiced milk daily, I use no more than three pre-soaked saffron strands.

Ayurvedic Spiced Milk Recipe

Enjoy the soothing comfort of spiced milk - a special Ayurvedic drink known for helping you sleep better. It's not just a tasty treat; it can also make you feel relaxed and ready for bed. You can have it any time of the day, but it's especially nice before bedtime. Ayurveda suggests having warm spiced milk before bed, but wait about 2.5 hours after dinner.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole cow’s milk

  • 3 cups water

  • 2 strands of saffron

  • 2-4 green cardamom pods, crushed

  • 1/8 tsp turmeric

  • 1/8 tsp ginger powder

  • 1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (optional, but good for sleep issues)

Directions:

Step 1: Mix 1 cup of milk with 3 cups of water in a pot.

Step 2: Rub the saffron between your fingers and add it to the milk and water.

Step 3: Add the crushed cardamom, turmeric, ginger powder, and grated nutmeg.

Step 4: Heat the mixture until it reduces to about 1 cup.

Benefits:

  • Promotes sound sleep

  • Supports good digestion

Contraindications:

  • Don't have it in Spring.

  • Not for people with allergies, colds, coughs, fevers, indigestion, or diarrhea.

  • Only have it when you're really hungry (you can skip dinner and have this instead), not right after a meal.

You might also be familiar with Zafrani pulao, a rice dish infused with saffron, lending it a unique color and flavor. Its medicinal properties are highly praised in Ayurveda.


Plant Information: Saffron 


  • Biological Name: Crocus Sativa

  • Sanskrit Name: Kumkumam


Characteristics:


  • Color: Red/blood-colored, or reddish-white in color, or whitish-red

  • Taste: Pungent/Bitter


If you're considering adding the beautiful saffron plant to your garden, keep an eye out for these two sources in the Fall:



I eagerly await the blooming of saffron in my garden!

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