Wednesday October 18, 2017

Saffron cultivation in India

Saffron (Kesar) is cultivated in Kashmir

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Saffron cultivation
Wikimedia Commons

By Shruti Pandey

Saffron Cultivation In India: Facts & Healing Benefits

Since time immortal, India has been known as a land of spices. The profusion of spices found here has allured visitors across lands and waters, being the prime contributor to the trade and commerce of the country. One such indigenous spice is “saffron” which takes on many names such as Zafran, Kesar, Kang, Kang Posh etc. Kang Posh is the flower of Kesar that allegorizes freshness and purity. In the valley of flowers and the heaven of earth- Kashmir, blooms a special flower of Kesar that has its own appellation and utility.

India Ranks At 3rd Position In Saffron Production:

India ranks third as the largest producer behind Iran (accounts for 90% of total saffron production) and Spain.

What is Saffron “Kesar”:

Saffron/kesar is the dried stigmas (top part in the center of a flower that receives the pollen) of the flower Crocus Sativus Linnaeus. It belongs to the Iradaceae family.

Wikimedia Commons
Saffron/Kesar – Wikimedia Commons

 

Here Are 7 quick facts about this momentous spice “Saffron”:

  1. Although the accreted usage of saffron dates back to just 3-4 centuries but its presence can be felt in ancient Greece where an anecdote from Greek mythology cites the story of its advent. A handsome mortal Crocus fell in love with a nymph; Smilax and was later snubbed and got bewitched by her into a flower crocus from which saffron is obtained. While Egyptian legends suggest its usage by Cleopatra and other pharaohs for aromatic and seductive essence. Romans had a great affinity for saffron and it is speculated that Roman king Nero got his hall and streets sprinkled with saffron upon his arrival to the city.
  2. Geographically, Spain is believed to be the starting point for the start of cultivation of saffron but some historians claim its inception in Iran and they state saffron as the naturally growing flower in Iran. Spain used to be its largest cultivator till 1950s where plethora of land was put under cultivation, but with time farmers became reluctant in its production and indulged themselves in cotton production and Iran took on the position of the largest producer of saffron thereafter.
  3. The introduction of saffron to India is credited to Chinese via Persians. Chinese medical experts cite Kashmir as the land of saffron where the flower was offered to Buddha around 3rd century while Indian legends suggest its arrival with the hands of two Sufi wanderers Khwaja Massod Wali and Sheikh Sharif-u-din Wali. They both sought a refuge in India at the time of their illness and they gave away crocus bulb as a present.
  4. In India, around 5,707 hectares of land comes under saffron cultivation while majority of the produce is procured from the state of Jammu and Kashmir in which about 4,496 hectares of land comes under cultivation. In the Kashmir area, Pampore is famous worldwide for its high quality saffron and from the Jammu area, Kishtwar is highly regarded. Pampore produces around 2,128 kilograms of saffron per annum. (source: agropedia, IIT Kanpur)
  5. It is normally planted in the month of August and harvested in October and November along with the assurance that atmosphere around is not very hot. In order to ensure this, flower plucking is done in the morning time from sunrise to 10 AM. The flowers are then dried for 5 days and kept in airy container.
  6. Saffron is used in cuisines across India, Europe, Middle East, and Turkey. It is regarded as the metallic honey accounting for its yellowish-orange color and sweet taste. It is widely used in India for religious purposes and offerings to gods. While in the field of medicine, it is seen as a potential anti- depressant element.
  7. Rs 372 Crore National Saffron Mission scheme was launched by the Government of India in partnership with the state government in 2010. The cost was to be shared by the state and central governments. The four-year scheme targeted at the economic revival of Jammu and Kashmir’s saffron sector and to increase the productivity from 3 kgs per hectare to 5 kgs. But the outcomes have not been very pleasant and farmers have blamed the use of chemicals for the decrement in production.

 

Healing Benefits of Saffron

The benefits and medicinal properties of this highly priced spice “saffron”, make it a valuable culinary ingredient worldwide. Modern research suggests that saffron can be used as an aphrodisiac, diaphoretic [to cause sweating], carminative [ to prevent gas] and to bring on mensuration. Some other benefits are mentioned hereunder:

  1. Protects against cancer: Saffron contains a dark orange, water soluble carotene called crocin, which is responsible for much of saffron’s golden color. Crocin has been found to trigger apoptosis [ programmed cell death] in a number of different types of human cancer cells, leukemia, ovarian carcinoma, colon adenocarcinoma, and soft tissue sarcoma. Researchers in Mexico who have been studying saffron extract have discovered that saffron and its active components display an ability to inhibit human malignant cells. Not only does the spice inhibit cells that have become cancerous, but it has no such effect on normal cells and actually stimulates their formation and that of lymphocytes [immune cells that help destroy cancer cells].
  1. Promotes learning and memory retention: Recent studies have also demonstrated that saffron extract, specifically its crocin, is useful in the treatment of age related mental impairment. In Japan, saffron is encapsulated and used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, memory loss and inflammation.
  1. In delayed puberty: In under developed girls, saffron has an overall stimulant effect. A pinch of saffron crushed in a table spoon of milk is useful to stimulate hormones and bring about desired effect.
  1. To increase vitality: In low libido saffron aids as a sexual stimulant and can be consumed in a dose of a pinch in a glass of milk at bed time.
  1. In patchy baldness: Saffron mixed in liquorice and milk makes an effective topical application to induce hair growth in alopecia.
  1. Protection against cold: Saffron is a stimulant tonic and very effective to treat cold and fever; saffron mixed in milk and applied over the forehead quickly relieves cold.
  1. Food Additives: Saffron is an excellent replacement for synthetic food additives- for eg: instead of FD and C yellow no 5: a synthetic food coloring agent that is a very common allergy trigger, Saffron’s glorious yellow could be an acceptable hypoallergenic choice (source: NDTV).

Shruti pandey is pursuing b.tech from HBTI Kanpur and aspires to blemish the world withwords. Twitter: @srt_kaka

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Beat the Heat! Top 12 Most Famous Varieties of Indian Mangoes

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mangoes
Mangoes, Wikimedia
  • India has nearly 287 varieties of mangoes, we are familiar with nearly 30 varieties
  • Southern India offers delicious varieties like Neelam, Raspuri, Banganapalli, Totapuri and many more
  • Northern India has Chaunsas, Himsagar, Langra and Dasheri among others

June 12, 2017: Mango is the national fruit of India and it is called the “King of Fruits”. Indian summer is not just about the scorching sun season, it is the mango season too. India is the largest producer of mangoes and Indian mangoes are widely renowned for their taste, quality and flavor. Here’s a list of the top 12 most famous must-taste varieties of Indian Mangoes:

Langra, northern India: One of the most superior varieties of Mango from the Northern Indian sub-continent, Langra is a prominent and very popular variety of mango . Langra mangoes are originate from near Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.

Langra
Langra, popular variety of mango from northern India. Wikimedia

Neelam, southern India: Usually found in abundance in June, these mangoes are grown in many areas of India. Neelam mangoes remain a favorite in Hyderabad. It is a very famous Indian variety mostly from the Southern parts of India.

neelam
Neelam, a popular variety of mangoes. Wikimedia

Himsagar, West Bengal and Orissa: Himsagar Mangoes are considered to be on of the specialties of West Bengal and Orissa. This variety is one of the top five mangoes in India that one should and must taste along with Ratnagiri Hapus, Banarasi Langra,Gir Kesar Banganapalli and more mentioned in this list.

Himsagar
Himsagar is mostly cultivated in Bengal and Orissa. Wikimedia

Banganapalli, Andhra Pradesh: Banganapalli, popularly known as Began Phali, is one of the most common types of mango that originated in the town of Banganapalle in Andhra Pradesh. These mangoes are large in size and weigh on an average 350-400 grams. These variety is regarded as The King of Mangoes in South India.

Banganapalli mango
Banganapalli mango. Wikimedia

Alphonso, Maharashtra: In terms of sweetness, flavor and richness, the Alphonso Mango is one of the best Varieties of Mango found in India. Also, these are the most expensive kind of mango available in India. This mangoes are mostly cultivated in western India. Ratnagiri, Raigad, and Konkan in the Maharashtra produce the best kind and most number of Alphonso mangoes.

Alphonso mangoes
Alphonso mangoes are popular for their sweetness and flavor. Wikimedia

Chaunsa, North India: Chaunsa is famous for being one the sweetest mangoes grown in North India. Mirpur Khas Sindh in Punjab of Pakistan is known as the place that produces th best kind of Chaunsa. These mangoes usually have medium oblong has a golden yellow color with a red blush.

chaunsa
Chaunsa mangoes. Wikimedia

Kesar, Saurashtra, Gujarat: Kesar Mangoes popular for their sweet taste are also simply called Gir Kesar because the largest number of Kesar mangoes are grown in the districts of Junagadh and Amreli in the foothills of Girnar.

kesar mangoes
Kesar mangoes are a specialty of Gujarat. Wikimedia

Totapuri, South India:Totapuri Mango is a famous kind of mango found primarily in the south Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Totapuri is one of the most available kinds of mango.

Totapuri
Totapuri mangoes. Wikimedia

Mulgoba, Tamil Nadu: Mulgoba is one of the best kinds of mango. It is mostly grown in the state of Tamil Nadu and other parts of South India. Mulgoba is also called the “Alphonso of South India”.

Mulgoba mangoes
Mulgoba mangoes. Wikimedia

Dasheri, Malihabad, Uttar Pradesh: Dasheri is a delicious variety of mango which is basically cultivated in North parts of India. It is one of the most famous varieties of mango in north India. the largest producer of Dasheri in India is Malihabad in Uttar Pradesh of North India, along with other varieties of mangoes such as Chausa, Fazli, Lucknowa, Jauhari and Safeda.

Dasheri mangoes
Dasheri mangoes. Wikimedia

Badami, Karnataka: Badami mangoes grown mostly in Karnataka in Southern India. These are also called Alphonso of Karnataka state because the texture and taste are quite similar to Alphonso Mango from the region of Ratnagiri in Maharashtra.

Badami mangoes
Badami is a famous variety of mangoes from Karnataka. Wikimedia

Raspuri, Karnataka: Raspuri mangoes are oval shaped with excellent flavour and juicy texture.This is why these are widely considered as the Queen of Mangoes in India. These are also known known as  Karnataka.

Raspuri
Raspuri mangoes. Wikimedia

ALSO READ: 12 Animals we should be Glad are Extinct

Other notable mentions:

In India, there are around 283 types of mangoes, out of which only 30 are well-known, more or less. Here is the list of few more types of mangoes cultivated in India:

Imam Pasand: It is one of the lesser known types of mango. It is cultivated in south India, mostly in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu.

Amrapali: The Amrapali is a hybrid variety, created by crossing the Neelam and Dasheri varieties.

Gulaab Khaas: As suggest by its name, a Gulaab Khaas mango is reddish in appearance, and is known for its rosy flavour and aroma.

Pairi: Pairi is one of the varieties of mangoes that usually hits the market early in the season.

Alampur Baneshan: This Indian type of mangoes are usually medium in size and green or yellow in colour.

Malda: This kind of mangoes are grown mostly in West Bengal and Bihar and these are known for the delicious taste and flavour with thin skin.

So, now it’s up to you to decide which one you intend to taste first.

– by Durba Mandal of NewsGram. Twitter: @dubumerang

 

 

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Western media’s fetish with Hindutva

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Original image, without text: http://thumbs.imagekind.com

Facebook screenshot
Facebook screenshot

By Ajeet Bharti

As I scrolled through my newsfeed on Facebook, I saw this ‘trending’ topic on the right pane which talked about Delhi University Student Union (DUSU) elections which was swept by ABVP, the student wing of BJP.

This seems fine. There is no error here. But the error is in the description that Facebook chose to display: “Hindu nationalist group leads in Student Union elections, reports say.” (See screenshot)

Claiming some ‘reports’, it chose to use the word ‘Hindu’ with a tone that almost sounds either communal or as if something is wrong with the identity. However, when I tried to find the supposed ‘reports’ in the trending section, none of them used ‘Hindu nationalist’ phrase in its description. (See the image with ‘reports’ listed below trending topics)

image
Click to enlarge

So, where exactly did Facebook find this angle? Nowhere. Because, apart from certain US based ‘media houses’ no one cares about the word unless quoted by some leaders or said in a manner that it is newsworthy.

Prior to the General Elections in 2014, when Indian PM Narendra Modi’s win was almost certain (or, there seemed a wave of support for the BJP leader), the Western media houses like Washington Post, The Economist, Boston Review and many others felt some kind of responsibility of trying to mould public opinion with their negative coverage (in fact, smear campaign) for Modi.

Despite the fact that the courts couldn’t find any evidence of his involvement in the infamous Gujarat riots, the Western media tried every bit to paint him as a killer and an animal of sorts.

However, Modi went in to become the Prime Minister of the nation. Now, there is a concerted attempt by several pseudo-intellectual journalists with sole agenda of relating everything wrong, with any distant hint of the saffron shade, to BJP trying to ‘saffronize’ the nation with its ‘Hindutva’ ‘agenda’.

Let me tell you why have I used these words in single quotes. The words are no more used for their real meaning. It is always used with coloured glasses. It is used to promote something about which the Indian society doesn’t care; which the ruling party doesn’t care about because it has a majority and has better things to do; which is being force-fed to Indian pseudo-intelligentsia by Western pseudo-intelligentsia just for the sake of a debate on it.

Let me quote an example from The Economist, a report which appeared on its website on June 22, under the headline: ‘Why India’s prime minister devotes such energy to yoga’. It said:

“…the ruling Bharatiya Janata party (BJP)’s promotion of yoga, which has its roots in the ancient religious practices that were gathered up into Hinduism, is an expression of Hindutva, an ideology which sees India as an exclusively Hindu nation.”

Now, I don’t know what is the source of wisdom of this reporter because Yoga has nothing to with religion. It would be akin to saying, “Obama is Christianising the world with his gym videos. Gym has its roots in Christian nations and it has an expression of Christianity where the US sees itself as an exclusive Christian nation.”

Did that sound weird? Of course it did. Just because there were no other religions, not even something called as Hinduism, and people gathered knowledge of keeping the body fit through exercises, it neither makes it exclusive to the religion of the day, nor communal in nature as the article tries hard to make us believe.

Next example is from a January 26, 2015 report in The Washington Post which talks about Modi’s fashion choice and what it says about his politics. The title is not wrong. It appears as if it is going to talk about various choices of the PM in his wardrobe and accessories. But, no! It is all about telling you how the ‘gajar ka halwa‘ eaten by Modi has an orange (shade of saffron) colour and how it is so because of his RSS roots. This article starts with, apparently, good words and then silently delves deeper with the Western media’s agenda of colouring everything with Hindutva; here, Hindutva is not about taking pride in one’s religion but somehow associated with being communal.

I never knew being secular meant singing bhajans (religious songs), attending Sunday Mass, serving Langar and donning a scull cap! Neither did I realise, being a Hindu, and believing in the religion, was somehow communal even when one didn’t show any disrespect to any other religion.

Here is what the article writes about Modi’s colour palette:

“Orange has been a long-time favorite, as it is one of the main colors of Hinduism. One color has been noticeably absent from his wardrobe. Last year, the Boston Review of books ran an article which highlighted the lack of dark green, a color commonly associated with Islam.”

As if this was not enough, the article went on to quote some tailor who supposedly said that Modi prefers silent shades of saffron. I wonder what all colours could be associated with the shades of saffron! For example, the colour of Modi’s skin, his poop, his shoes, his tongue…

And this is not because he was born this way, rather that he is from RSS. I won’t be surprised if someday these pseudo-secular and weeping on ‘humanitarian crisis’ journalists charge Modi with not changing the saffron strip off the Tricolour! I mean, how come that doesn’t sound communal to these guys as yet!

So, India’s Prime Minister should wear every colour (and the ‘silent’ to ‘violent’ shades of them) to show solidarity with all the religions. And, since when did the Quran say that dark green was the colour of Islam?

Another article from January 17, 2015 in The Economist, ‘The Hindutva rate of growth’, concludes with following lines:

“Economic reform is the means to a nationalist end; and, for Mr Modi, nationalism is of the Hindu variety.”

Here, The Economist just gives up and becomes blunt with its choice of words. So, I wouldn’t comment on what does the premier organisation mean by ‘Hindu variety’ as I don’t get it. The article has a sense that India should remain a third world nation where half of the population must defecate openly, 80 per cent remain poor, and whatever we dump on her shores, she must accept with gratitude in her eyes.

But that’s not the situation. India is no more in a shambles; it is waking up to stand firm. Modi is doing everything that India should have done a decade ago. Seeking investments, visiting nations to better the India image, formulating policies for better economic opportunities. He is trying to make India look good and become good. The data shows that in a global economic slowdown, India is the only nation showing stability.

After a long while, we have got a leader who has a vision. There are flaws with every single government’s policy on the Earth. That doesn’t mean everything is to be seen with a glass that has saffron tinge whereas the mind believes the world is saffron!

I am not aware why these big media houses are so much concerned about Modi’s choice of dress or sending the Mangalyan so cheaply to Mars when there are issues that their own society grapples with every single day.

Bashing Modi for humanitarian crisis in India wouldn’t solve how an American teen goes about spraying bullets in a park, inside a cinema; or a cop killing a black teen in a hoodie just because he ‘looked’ suspicious. Wouldn’t it be great to question your own justice system where every non-White criminal is a terrorist but the White ones who go on killing spree in schools, colleges, theatres are termed as ‘mentally ill’ and escape punishment?

Just look at the police data about conviction rates of Whites and Blacks in the US, and you will see… But wait, you won’t be able to, as you are busy looking farther in Milky Way, searching for orange areas ‘created’ by  Modi because of his RSS roots!

How about asking some questions as to why a Sikh is bashed up by an American youth after being yelled at with the words “terrorist”, “Osama” and “Go to your own country”?

How about looking at your own past and see where did you drive out the Red Indians? How about asking your government what it is exactly doing for the ISIS crisis? How about trending a hashtag or post on why the US is not doing anything about ISIS? Why is it not asking its allies like UAE and Saudi to take the Syrians in in this time of crisis?

There are many questions other than the fetish about the word Hindutva. While everything might appear to be related to Hinduism because of its ancient roots and the way it survived Islamic and Christian (colonial, the White Men’s Burden) attacks on its culture and social structure, we seriously don’t understand your connection, Washington, Economist and Facebook!

Good for Indians! Not even one tenth of a percent of Indians read these news websites which, in very obvious ways, are racist to the core.