“Saffron is the seed of the plant,” said Abdul Rashid, secretary of the Sarvodaya Jagannatha, or “Bharat-era Heritage Foundation.” The seeds are picked off the tree and packed in dry ice into large bags. The bags then travel to an industrial unit in the city for centrifugation (similar to the kind used to enrich uranium in Iran) and pasteurization (the process of heating a product to a specific temperature until it turns into dust). From there the dried seeds are packed into containers that are then transported to the city.
Where is the seed taken to?
Saffron is “purchased” from all 50 states of India, said Rashid, at a time of increasing tension between the central and state governments. Some 50 plants are bought each year and then sent to different states, the foundation added.
In this photo provided by The Heritage Foundation of Sarvodaya, a saffron bag is used to carry the seeds from the industrial unit in Sarvodaya, Himachal Pradesh to the centre of New Delhi on February 20, 2015. Photo: The Heritage Foundation of Sarvodaya/Mukesh Gupta
How is it grown?
Saffron is known for its anti-microbial properties and because it contains an enzyme called saffronin, which naturally neutralizes viruses, fungi and bacteria. Saffron was used in medieval Islamic medicine, as well as as the Ayurveda practice of “chaiyam”, the ritual washing of the feet. India now uses saffron in perfumes, cosmetics and other products for their antioxidant properties.
What makes it so expensive and hard to buy?
“Saffron is an expensive spice, and is used in different dishes. Most often the saffron has been grown in the country’s forests. Many people don’t like to buy this special spice,” said Vijay Singh, executive director of the Sarvodaya Institute of Technology. The foundation is hoping to start distribution of saffron to the people of India in the near future.
Is there a market for saffron in India?
There is a demand for saffron, especially among women, but the government of India has been cracking down on imports since 2009 – a year when the supply of the spice came under increasing scrutiny, thanks to a global ban. The Foundation does not expect demand for saffron to
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