Birjand and the History of Saffron: Part II
As we explored in Part I of Birjand and the history of Saffron, Saffron growth in Iran has a rich and storied history with evidence suggesting agricultural activity in Birjand up to 5,000 years ago. In this Eastern part of Iran, the semi-desert climate is the ideal growing environment for the golden spice sought the world over, but Birjand is also a unique part of Iran full of wonderful gardens, architecture and art.
Alongside premium Saffron, Birjand is home to some incredible architecture, such as the Kolah Farangi Citadel, an incredible hexagonal building featuring a stark white cone-shaped top. The Kolah Farangi Citadel is considered the symbol of art and architecture in Birjand and is also the place of governorship. Typical of the Ziggurat style the building is not a single floor structure but has six floors replete with ornate features such as intricate ceilings, stunning arches and a beautiful courtyard and garden.
Kolah Farangi Citadel is home to just one of Birjand’s lovely gardens. The Historical Garden of Rahim Abad is a must-see in Birjand and is renowned as one of Iran's most beautiful gardens. The sprawling complex showcases stunning gardens with established pines, Armenian plums and Barberry trees lining pathways and roads surrounding the mansion at the centre of the property. Upstairs in the mansion, you will find Tala-e Ayeneh (Mirror Hall) where stucco sculptures and pieces of mirror reflect the history and artistry of the region. Throughout the rest of the building plenty of exploring awaits as intricate
details line the walls, ceilings and stained glass windows - inviting you to linger a little longer and soak up the magic of Persian architecture.
Of course, when you consider the abundance of beautiful, successful gardens in Iran - borne of a history of farming and understanding of the land, it makes sense that Iran, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, exports 85 per cent of the world’s Crocus sativus aka - Saffron.
Since the discovery of this gorgeous spice, it has spread across the globe and been used topically to treat all kinds of ailments and enjoyed via food. The Ancients enjoyed it in many ways, the Romans to cleanse public spaces, and the Egyptians, including Cleopatra, were thought to have enjoyed it infused in milk to bathe in. Minoans used it to dye wool or to make cosmetics and the Spanish created one of the most famous of all Spanish dishes, Paella by adding the golden Saffron threads to the pan.
Now grown across the world, the quality of Saffron varies according to the producer. Harvested only on the morning that it blooms, the extraction of the threads is labour intensive and painstakingly slow as each thread must be individually picked. Iran currently Produces 550 tons of Saffron per year.