Kishtwar saffron, a prized spice cultivated and harvested in the Kishtwar Region of Jammu and Kashmir, has recently been bestowed with the prestigious Geographical Indication (GI) tag by the Geographical Indications Registry. This recognition solidifies the unique identity and quality of saffron produced in the Kishtwar region of Jammu, complementing its already legendary reputation.
Cultivation in the Kishtwar Region
- Kishtwar saffron finds its roots in the picturesque Kishtwar region, situated in the mountainous terrains of Jammu.
- This spice, locally known as “KUNG” and nationally as “KESAR,” is a vital cash crop in this isolated district.
- The saffron production area, aptly named Mandal, covers about 120 hectares of cultivable land, making Kishtwar a significant hub for saffron cultivation.
The Pinnacle Harvest: Kumkum
- Kishtwar is renowned for producing the most expensive harvest of saffron, popularly known as Kumkum.
- This legendary variety not only symbolizes the economic significance of saffron cultivation but also holds cultural value as a representation of freshness and purity.
- Saffron, with its Sanskrit name ‘Kum-Kum’ or ‘Lohit,’ stands as a cultural heritage in the region.
Comparing Quality: Kishtwar vs. Pampore
- The quality of Kishtwar saffron stands out, even in comparison to the well-known Pampore saffron from Kashmir.
- The superiority is attributed to various factors such as the quality of the land, the climate, and the meticulous technique of plucking flowers and separating the red and yellow carpels from the petals.
Agricultural Practices and Challenges
- Saffron cultivation in Kishtwar is a labor-intensive process that demands careful attention. Moderate rainfall during the planting of bulbs and flowering is crucial for a successful harvest.
- The annual production of approximately 5 quintals highlights both the dedication of the local farmers and the challenges they face in maintaining saffron fields.
Saffron’s Cultural and Medicinal Significance
- Beyond its economic importance, saffron holds cultural and medicinal value in the region.
- Known as ‘Zafron’ in Persian, it is not just a condiment used in cooking but also finds its place in Hindu traditions.
- Hindus in India use saffron as a mark (Tilak) on the forehead, considering its aroma and color as auspicious.
- The spice is also utilized in medicines and as a subtle, digestive, sedative, and exhilarant flavor in cooking.
Economic Impact and Medicinal Benefits
- The cultivation of saffron has significantly contributed to the economic conditions of growers in Kishtwar.
- The high medicinal value of saffron has made it a sought-after commodity.
- Crushed saffron carpels mixed with milk create a healthy tonic, showcasing the diverse applications and benefits of this valuable spice.