Saffron is a costliest crop of Kishtwar. It is popularly known as “KESAR” throughout India. Its Sanskrit name is ‘Kum-Kum’ or ‘Lohit’, whereas Kishtwari call it ‘KUNG’. The Botanical name of Saffron is ‘Crocus Sativa’. Its Persian name is ‘Zafron’. It is produced in Spain, Iran, France, Sicily and Jammu & Kashmir. The quality of Kishtwar Saffron is superior to that of Pampor in Kashmir. It all depends upon the quality of Land, Climate of the place and technique of plucking Flowers, separating of Red and Yellow Carpels from the petals. It requires moderate rain during the period of planting of bulbs and flowering.
Out of 156 revenue villages of Kishtwar district only few villages namely Matta, Hidyal, Tund, Nageni, Bera-Bhatta, Begana, Hatta, Pochhal, and Lach Daya Ram are famous for the production of Saffron. About 120 hectares of the cultivable land has been occupied for Saffron Cultivation in Kishtwar area. On an average about 5 Quintals of Saffron is produced annually in this part of Kishtwar district called Mandal.
The saffron of this place is superior in quality, fragrance and usefulness than that of other places. Saffron is a condiment used in medicines, cooking of vegetables and applying of a mark (Tilak) on the forehead by the Hindus in India. Its aroma & color is considered auspicious in this country. Its taste is subtle. If a bit more of it is crunched under teeth, it tastes bitter. Two or Three carpel’s (stigmas) crushed and mixed in milk make it a healthy tonic. It is digestive, sedatives, curative and exhilarant. It is the costliest condiments. In Jammu province, Kishtwar is the only Saffron developing district. Saffron has high medicinal value and has helped in the economic conditions of growers. This process needs a lot of labor is for the upkeep of all such saffron fields.
Area of Saffron Land in Kishtwar
|Name of the Village||Area in Hectares||Name of the Village||Area in Hectares|
*Information provided by the District Saffron Officer, Kishtwar.
Saffron belongs to the family Iridaceae of the order asparagales.
The class is liliopsida under the division Magnoliophyta.
|Scientific classification||Subfamilies and tribes|
Species: Crocus sativus
|• Subfamily- Crocoideae
• Subfamily- Iridoideae
o Tribe- Irideae
o Tribe- Mariceae
o Tribe- Sisyrinchieae
o Tribe- Tigridieae
• Subfamily -Isophysidoideae
• Subfamily -Ixioideae
o Tribe -Ixieae
o Tribe- Pillansieae
o Tribe -Watsonieae
• Subfamily- Nivenioideae
Saffron is a small perennial plant. Gray-green leaves have hairy margins and grow to about 1 or1-1/2 feet long. About August or September, the corm produces a funnel-shaped, reddish-purple (sometimes lilac or white) flower. The flowers are hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, butterflies. The flower has three stigmas, which are the distal ends of the plant’s carpels. Together with its style, the stalk connecting the stigmas to the rest of the plant and is a sterile triploid mutant.
Production of Saffron followed in Kishtwar involves some steps:
- Sorting of Corms
Saffron seeds or Corms are locally called as Guli. Corm size of saffron varies from 1g to 20g. Corms weighing less than 8g have less productivity potential whereas Corms weighing more than 8g has more productive and maximum flowering ability.
- Planting of Saffron Seeds/Corms
The saffron bulbs or corms (Guli) are planted in the month of July, August and September. It requires a particular kind of soil for cultivation. By the end of Aug-September the Saffron cultivated plots are made soft and pick-axe. The overgrown grass is removed. In the beginning the piece of land required for this purpose has to be ploughed twice or thrice so as to make its soil fit for planting bulbs. It must have some moisture at the time of planting bulbs.
Planting cycle, planting time, planting method and seed rate are the critical factors for Saffron productivity. Corms once planted are retained in the field for 3-4 years, allowing these to produce the child corms which continue the production cycle.
Prior to the plantation of saffron corms deep ploughing is done using bullock drawn plough. After the field is ready, corms of different types are planted in the month of September by hand dropping of Saffron Corms behind bullock drawn plough. The field is laid out into beds with deep drainage channels. After that, these saffron corms are dig into those drainage channels some inches below the soil.
- Preparation of Soil (Irrigation)
Saffron in Kishtwar is grown under rain fed conditions as no water source is presently available there. Farmers are dependent on September rains for a good flush of flowers and delayed rainfall is detrimental to the crop as it is accompanied with low minimum and maximum temperature leading to flower abortion. The saffron region used to receive rains annually, part of which would occur during August to October, the two critical stages for normal flowering and good crop for the next year.
- Picking of Flowers
Saffron flowers bloom in the month of October-November every year. These flowers are picked early in the morning and then stored properly for two or three days. The plucking of saffron flowers requires skill. In the early morning before sunrise the flowers are easily picked. As soon as the sun rises in the east flowers start blooming plucking becomes difficult. Soon the flowers fully bloom and only the petals come to hand and stem remains inside the soil, sometimes only carpel’s are collected. Most of the farmers pick saffron flowers without any picking schedule or flower age.
Flowers are picked every morning at dawn when they have not yet flowered. This way, pistils are protected and quality is preserved. From day to day, the number of flowers can vary from 100 to several 1000 flowers. The picking lasts on average one month.
- Stigma Separation
Stigma should be separated within 24 hours of flower picking. Saffron petals are Sky-Blue in color and having 3 stigmas/carpels of red and yellow color each. Then red and yellow carpels are separated from the petals. Each flower has six lilac petals inside which three red carpel’s (stigmas) and three yellow carpel’s (stamen). The stem of three red carpels is called Saffron, locally called as Kung whereas three yellow carpels are called Saffranin, locally called as Poum. It is at this time of detaching those Stigmas and is given shape by keeping them collective locally called as ‘Turla’ before drying in the sunshine. It takes much time to separate carpels from dried up flowers.
- Saffron Drying
The dried up saffron (Kung) and saffranin (Poum) is then stored in different types of containers. In case of slight moisture saffron becomes blackish in color and loses its fragrance. The skill for preservation of saffron is most important. Stigma separation is delayed due to lack of sufficient family labour. There are various types of saffron dryer machines available in market. Some of them are Solar Saffron Dryer, Hot Air Saffron Dryer and Solar Tunnel Saffron Dryer etc.
In above picture, Saffron Bulb with overgrown Green colored Grass and the Saffron petals in which three Carpels each of Saffron (Red Color stigmas) and Saffranin (Yellow color stigmas) are present. Saffron is a leaving plant that gives 3 filaments which will become saffron after being dried. This is extremely rare. In Kishtwar they are called the “Kung Pouh” and in Kashmir they are called the “Kung Posh”.
The crocus has no seeds; it is cultivated and multiplied only by its bulbs.