Pampore, a small town on the banks of the River Jhelum, near Srinagar, is the main centre for saffron cultivation in India. The best saffron comes from Spain, which is the world’s largest producer.
Saffron, the most expensive spice in the world, is known in many parts of India as kesar. It adds a golden colour to food and gives it a unique flavour. Moreover, a little saffron goes a long way — less than half a teaspoon is sufficient to flavour a litre or two of kheer for example.
Workers pluck the flowers of the autumn crocus plant and then remove the three thin orange-red threads or stigma, the female part of the flower. (Sometimes saffron is adulterated with the flower’s yellow stamens which add neither colour nor flavour).