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Saffron – the flower from heaven blooms in the Rhodopes

БНР Новини
Photo: Hassan Tahirov

They call saffron “the king of medicines”, “the king of herbs”, “red gold” or “the flower from heaven” because it is the most expensive herb in the world – it has been traded at double the price of gold for centuries. The cultivation of Crocus Sativus, commonly known as saffron crocus used for the extraction of the herb, is now taking its first steps in Bulgaria.

Hassan Tahirov is one of its pioneers. In the 1970’s he left Bulgaria and traveled a long road until he settled in Sweden. He has seen the world and has come to know many nations and cultures. But even though he says he is a citizen of the world, it was nostalgia that brought him back to the town where he was born – Kurdjali in the Rhodopes. Now he is profiting from the fruit of his labours, here in Bulgaria. The first saffron crop in this country is now a fact.


How did you decide to grow saffron in the Rhodopes? The answer from Hassan Tahirov:

Снимка“Every day we hear people talking on TV and radio that an alternative to tobacco must be found. But time passes and no one is doing anything about it. So, finally I said to myself: why shouldn’t the alternative to tobacco be saffron? It is such an expensive herb and spice. I invested my own money and bought 45 kilograms of bulbs from the Turkish national experimental station. In Bulgaria we planted the bulbs in 5 state experimental stations – in Vratsa, Rousse, Byal Izvor, Plovdiv and Kurdjali. We founded the Association of Saffron Growers in Bulgaria. Our target is to plant 100 hectares of saffron under pilot projects to show people that this is a plant that can thrive in Bulgaria, a plant with a future.”

The Ministry of Agriculture decision to set up an expert commission for discussing the future of saffron in Bulgaria comes as much needed support for the association. You have been making the rounds of the Rhodope municipalities and villages. Do people have an interest in growing saffron?

“Yes, there is an enormous amount of interest. There are even people who have emigrated to Spain, England, Germany, Austria, even Australia who have contacted me on Facebook. They write that growing saffron is like something out of Arabian nights and say they would return to Bulgaria at the earliest opportunity. At a seminar in the town of Ardino with representatives of the Agriculture Ministry we discussed things at length and decided that saffron was the alternative to tobacco.”

СнимкаIt is worth taking a look at developments over time: a number of governments have proposed different alternatives to tobacco, such as fruit-trees and olive trees, pepper etc., but none of these projects ever came to anything. So what has saffron got that all of these crops haven’t got?

“Compared to other crops saffron has a return on investments – if you invest in September you can expect a return plus profit in November. And this over 7-8 years. It is enough to just earth it up. I don’t think there is any other crop with such an investment.”

The first saffron crop will be sent to different laboratories for quality control analysis.

“No other crop can thrive in these parts. There is very little arable land, not like in Central Bulgaria. In the mountains there is one little plot here and another – over there. For saffron that is a perfect solution. That is the future. I firmly believe in what I have started. I will fight, I will work and people will see that miracles can happen.”

English: Milena Daynova

Photos: Hassan Tahirov

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