Why does the UK banned it in schools? And who gets to decide what is saffron and what isn’t?
If you’re struggling to understand the relationship between the Indian subcontinent and saffron, read the following:
Saffron: The Subcontinent and the United Kingdom by Kriti Jain
How Britain and India got on in the 1960s by Piers Morgan
Paste: Saffron: A history of the golden flower, by Shubham Ahmed
Saffron: A World Guide by Aashish Pandey
What is saffron, anyway?
Saffron plants are mostly grown on steep hilltops in the high Himalayas. The name means the “green saffron”.
The Himalayan saffron was indigenous to western and northern India for centuries, but was banned in India shortly before and during World War II.
In 1947, the British High Commissioner to India, M.W.A. Nizam, announced that a ban on India’s national dish of “saffron rice” was imposed, to ensure that India would not fall into the clutches of the Axis powers in the event of victory. (India also has a banned version of the dish called samosas).
British saffron was eventually removed from the food shelves in India – and from the shelves of British supermarkets as well – and in 1961 the government of a newly formed independent India banned all American agricultural products originating in India.
But the Indian government had to wait longer for the ban.
Saffron is a member of the nightshade family, and grows best in moist rocky hills and at elevations over 2,000 metres. The colour is usually golden in colour, and it is thought that the plant produces seeds that can only be eaten by some species of small birds.
In India, it is used as a medicinal herb, used for medicinal purposes and as a seasoning in cooking. In Nepal it is a spice that can be eaten while baking or eating flatbread like pulao.
The colouring of the flowers and stems of the plant vary greatly in different regions, and this means that the flowers and stems of a plant are quite different to the leaves of another plant – a difference known as variation.
Saffron was brought to Britain from India after the Industrial Revolution, and since then its popularity has grown.
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