Updated: Jan 31, 2020
"Guess what, saffron plants are now available in the Mountain View Farmer's Market!" Reading these words in a text message made my day.
Farmer's Market in the San Francisco Bay Area never ceases to amaze me. Being an Ayurveda Practitioner, growing herbs in my garden is of huge significance to me. Friends who have gifted plants to me have a special connection to me. Every time these plants blossom, I think of my friend blossoming.
Imagine my excitement when I learned about saffron plants being available. For years now, on my India trips, I have saffron couriered to me from Amin Bin Khalik stores in Srinagar (Kashmir) to last me a whole year. The best saffron grows there. I have tried other saffron sources like Kirkland (Costco), Spanish saffron (in Trader Joe's), Persian saffron (in Iranian/Persian stores) and also Organic saffron online, and personally, nothing comes close to Kashmiri saffron.
To grow a saffron plant in my garden was a whole new experience. I am sure the flower quality varies based on their geographical location. And, typically, the dried red saffron stigmas in the flower are what's consumed as a spice. The plant requires very little maintenance and it flowers in fall.
You may have heard of Zafrani pulao, a rice dish made with saffron that imparts both distinctive color and flavor to it. It is also an important ingredient in spiced milk recipes. Saffron is extolled for its medicinal properties in Ayurveda.
Biological Name: Crocus Sativa
Sanskrit Name: Kumkumam
Color: Red/blood-colored, or reddish-white in color or whitish-red
The Ayurvedic source text Bhavaprakash distinguishes the different varieties based on geography in the chapter Karpuradi Varga. It identifies three source locations known to the writers at the time: Kashmir, Balochistan (Bahlika) and Iran/Persia (Parasikadesa). Of these, the saffron sourced from Kashmir was considered the best in quality.
We now know that it also grows in Spain and France. Its stigmas are quite expensive and a tiny 2 gram box can go for over $10. Just a few strands are sufficient for use at a time. When making my children's spiced milk every day, I use no more than 3 strands that have been pre-soaked.
I am looking forward to the growth of saffron in my garden.
If you would like to add the beautiful Saffron plant to your garden, here are two sources that you should look out for in fall: