I couldn’t think of India, nor Pakistan, though I imagine some combination of these countries have the best. Why is India the best? According to an article in the latest issue of the respected Vegetarian Journal by Dinesh Bapat, the reason: its culture. “All saffron comes from India, and most of it comes from Maharashtra, Gujarat and Kishanganj, the state where the Mahabharata was first written. In fact, this was the most important event on the historical calendar that predates Islam. Most of the sarpanchies of the region were called the Mahabharata Sarpanches, and it was they who kept the tradition of writing the historical record of India. Thus, a small percentage of the sarpanchies are actually today home to the first permanent record-keepers of India — all those whom have been responsible for keeping an eye out for the changes of the world. Theirs is a very old tradition; it has been perpetuated for countless generations.”
But I don’t think India could have the most fantastic crop. China does, though the world’s supply of saffron is declining. India, on the other hand, does not, and it’s worth noting that the most expensive piece of imported Indian saffron, made in China, is twice as expensive as India. When it first became popular, saffron was very expensive, and was so when British colonial authorities imported it after World War II and it was used as a seasoning for beef, lamb, and pork dishes.
India does not have an industrial or pharmaceutical industry, which is another factor. When one thinks of the most expensive Indian food, a dish called “mantou ka vada,” the most highly prized piece of imported saffron was produced and imported just outside Vadodara in Maharashtra. In terms of cost, it’s a much more expensive product, though the quality is vastly superior to most Indian products. When I visited the town in 2008 to visit a saffron trader in the town’s central market — where the most expensive and finest saffron is available — his shop was in a building next to the market, which is a few miles away.
While saffron still has little to no cultural value in the United States right now, the state of New Jersey is currently trying to change that. The Garden State plans to ban the use of imported saffron by 2020.
I’ve had very little experience with this process