Afghan Saffron & Cardamom

Flavors | posted on November 5, 2015

I am so excited about this new flavor of ours.  Before Victory Garden, I used to develop recipes and host an online cooking show called Kitchen Caravan.  We produced different episodes on healthy cooking, inspired by how other cultures eat around the world.  One of our episodes was about the Saffron harvest of Herat, Afghanistan.  I loved learning about Herat’s importance in agriculture, when it was considered the “Pearl” of the ancient region of Khorasan.  The rich agricultural surroundings allowed the city to thrive, and be resilient to bad governance and pillage.  It also helped it become a leading center in culture and the arts.  At the time, we didn’t have access to saffron from Afghanistan, we were just inspired by the romantic notion of it.  A little while ago, however, I was flipping through a magazine and came across a write-up on Rumi Spice, a Chicago-based veteran-run company that works with Afghan farmers to produce and import saffron from Herat.  I was so excited when I read about this company.  The main issues facing Afghan farmers is that they are incentivized more to grow pot and poppies for opium than food, thus being controlled by the Taliban.  Rumi Spice works with farmers to grow Saffron, the world’s most expensive spice, which gives them more returns than growing the drugs.  It also allows them to have control over their own harvest.


Saffron is a very special and unique spice.  It comes from a purple crocus related to the iris, which blooms in the Fall.  The spice is actually the stigma of the flower, with each flower producing three stigmas every season.  The filaments are hand-picked, which as you can imagine, makes it a laborious production. Saffron is therefore both expensive to produce and to consume.  However, it is worth it.  The scent of saffron is quite subtle, though once you recognize it, you will always feel its presence.  Saffron is a requirement for any Spanish paella and risotto milanese.  Lately, I have enjoyed it in a few restaurants that have used it in tomato sauces.  My favorite form, however, is in any milk-based desserts.  It just gives it a certain something that underlies everything else in the dish, and elevates it to another level.

Afghan Saffron from Herat

Afghan Saffron from Herat

Saffron Cardamom may not seem like a unique flavor here at Victory Garden.  Our Queen of Persia is basically the same flavor, though we add rose essence.  I purposely left this flavor as only two ingredients, so that one could really sense the high quality of the Afghan Saffron we are using, as well as how beautiful the marriage of these two spices is.

For more information, please watch this video produced by Rumi Spice.  

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