Ferdows, Saffron, and Crisis
Saffron is a product as old as Iran’s civilization. For centuries, people used to plant the red gold. But in the previous decades, this land has faced so many new issues, including the irrational pricing, lack of management, and the entrance of the brokers to the market. In this brief interview, Saffron Express is going to show you how the situation of crop harvesting has changed in small, old villages of Iran.
Ferdows is a small city in South Khorasan province, Iran. This city has replaced the old city of Tun, which was one of the oldest cities in South Khorasan. Archaeological finds on the Khonche hill of Ferdows indicate a history of four thousand years, but it’s certain that this city was one of the most important cities in Khorasan in the early Islamic period. Although the earthquake destroyed many of the historical monuments of this city, but there are still some left, like Kushak Tun Mosque, which dates back to 554 A.H (Mehr News, April 2016). This building was a Zoroastrian fire temple, but it changes its used after the advent of Islam.
In the past, Ferdows was known for saffron, pomegranate, and jujube. But today, its its fields are asphalted, and most of the farmers have changed their jobs.
Read also: The soil impact on saffron cultivation
A Seller Says Why:
- Eskandari has interviewed with one of the sellers in this city in 2012, Mr. R, who also has a piece of land on which he grows this valuable spice. One-third of a hectare of land. And he also runs the shop.
-“Three years ago, we used to buy saffron in batches of 250k IRR, but now, today, the price is a little better than in previous months, each batch of saffron does not cost more than 160 IRR. Do you know how much more expensive everything has become in these past years? This is very difficult for the farmer. We buy water more expensively, the wage of the workers has increased much, but the spice itself, has become cheaper.” Said Mr. R. “There was a time – not so long ago – when an old woman alone, with a small piece of land, could make a living.”
This plant does not need water. It is watered three or four times in each planting season. Except for one, all of which is surface irrigation. For a dry land like Khorasan, it is the best planting. The saffron flower doesn’t need much care. All it wants is to weed once, and then there is the harvest stage, which is done by seasonal workers.
-“I used to be a teacher in Dasht Rokh. Somewhere near Torbat. The village was filled with wheat farms. It could provide bread for 6 or 7 provinces. But then the government came up with a lending plan, for planting. All the villagers left their wheat farms and planted saffron flower instead. Now, there is no more wheat. Everyone is growing saffron flower. Their saffron is also of poor quality, but it’s very cheap.” Mr. R pulls out a dark and low-smelling saffron from behind his desk.
Each saffron’s style has three parts: Negin, Sargol, and a white part. Most of the urbanist costumers desire the Sargol part. But Mr. R suggests: “All the aroma and the benefit of the saffron is in the white part of the bottom of the style. The color comes from the stigma, while the aroma is from the white part.”
He also claims: “It was six or seven years ago when we tested Iranian different kinds of the spice in the lab. The Ferdows’s red gold was the best one among them all.”
Read also: Saffron popularity in the painting industry
The Sad Origin of This Joyful Spice
For the people of Ferdows, saffron is more than just a best-selling and expensive product. It is part of the people’s identity. It’s even the symbol of the city which can be seen even in the architecture of the city. In the middle of the city squares, large statues of saffron flower, shows the attachment and appreciation of the people for the land.
Saffron is a joyful spice; but not in this desert. Because of the reduction in the saffron pricing, the saffron farmer doesn’t sell his product easily. He keeps his product at home and when, for example, he wants to buy a piece of home appliance, he picks the enough amount form the stored saffron and sells it. Saffron provides the future; a kind of investment, and a currency for saving.
Did you enjoy reading about the behind the scenes of saffron planting?
Eskandari, R (2012), زعفران، آب و هویت: یک تکنگاری اتنوگرافیک
Mehr News (2012), . سفر به تاریخ ۴۰۰۰ ساله فردوس؛ از اعجاز آب تا معجزه خاک
Mohit Tabatabaei, M (1986), «در پیرامون تون و طبس». مشکوه. شمارۀ 20، پاییز 1367pp. 137-134
Noghani, A (1985), «آثار تاریخی شهر فردوس». مشکوه. شمارۀ 17، زمستان 1366. pp. 193-185
ShadiFar, Gh; Fallahi, A (2013), مستندسازی بازسازی شهر فردوس پس از زلزله سال 1347