Kashmir’s saffron now blooms in R’sthan’s Pilani

Kashmir’s saffron now blooms in R’sthan’s Pilani

Upon seeing the unassuming 60-year-old Umrao Singh Chauhan, a retired gazetted officer of the Rajasthan government, not many would be able to guess that he grows the world’s costliest spice saffron in his backyard.

The saffron hue at the nondescript farmhouse at Pilani is a testimony to his love for the environment and his passion for farming, which led him to bring 17,000 plants of the spice from the picturesque fields of Pampore in Kashmir to the desert state of Rajasthan. 

 “My passion for farming made me take voluntary retirement from services at the Rajasthan Assembly last year. I and my wife, who is a retired government teacher, are experimenting with different types of farming at our farmhouse, sprawled over 28 acres. After experimenting with cucumber, tomatoes and green chillies, I thought of growing saffron which is a rare spice and needs certain kind of treatment and temperature,” Chauhan, who retired from the post of senior English reporter at the Rajasthan Assembly, told DH

 Chauhan’s journey was not smooth. With a help of a family friend, he acquired 17,000 saplings (bulb) of saffron for Rs 2.5 lakh. With uncertainty looming over his head over the saffron crop, Chauhan chose an airy corner of his land covered with a polyhouse and sowed the plants in June 2018. To maintain the temperature he kept a sprinkler over the polyhouse.

“It was 40 degrees Celcius in Rajasthan and saffron needs a moderate temperature. The polyhouse and vermicompost helped in maintaining the condition and temperature,” said Chauhan, who learnt about the technique by watching YouTube videos. 

The family heaved a sigh of relief after plants sprouted in October, and flower and stigma came out in December.

“We acquired around 60 gms of saffron strands in the first round of farming. We are hoping to get more in March” Umrao’s son Pawan Singh Chauhan told DH.