This morning we toured a spice plantation, so I thought I'd share my pictures of the plants and provide a little information about them. I am writing in the order they were seen:
|Fat Cardamom berries and flowers near the ground|
|Cardamom plant with berries at base|
2. Pepper - sometimes called the king of spice. It was the main spice that drove explorers towards India. Highly valued for millennia, pepper has been used to pay dowries, keeps well (for many years without deteriorating. Black, green and red pepper all come from the same plant and are simply the berries at varying stages of development/ripeness combined with the manner in which they are prepared. Traditionally, Pepper is used for medicinal purposes in aiding digestion, ceasing flatulence and bloating and aiding with toothache. Scientific studies have shown that pepper is an excellent antibiotic and anti-inflammatory agent.
|Pepper berries, hanging like catkins off the vine|
Straight off the tree it is surprisingly sweet. No wonder it was prized in the 16th century, when sugar was rare and honey hard to procure. It is great in cakes and biscuits (where the rolled, inner bark should be used) or in curries and mulled wine or cider (where the outer bark is best).
|Clove flower buds|
|Clove tree leaves|
|Ginger leaves hiding in the undergrowth|
|A talisman made of chillies and lime|
often hung near prize possessions (home, car, shop front)
to ward off envious and evil eyes
in Southern India
|Dried Vanilla pods|
Nutmeg is usually consumed in a grated form. In small quantities it is a delicious addition to both sweet and savoury additions. Eaten in larger quantities it can be hallucinogenic and more than four ground nutmegs consumed in a single sitting can prove fatal.
which encases the actual nutmeg – often red or yellow in colour. It is usually dried. Reputedly good for sweetening breath.
We also saw:
Later on our journey we drove past acres of rubber plantations – the clear plastic sheets in most appearing like the Willis in Giselle vanishing into the woods.
As you can see, the more flavoursome Arabica produces fewer cherries per branch than the Robusta plants.
The late Mott Green would have approved of the cooperative cocoa farms and artisanal chocolate producers in this area. The chocolate is rustic but delicious, often made with local cashew nuts or raisins added for extra texture/flavour.
The ones that got away (in other words spices that are commonly used in India, and which we have eaten, but did not feature amongst the horticultural species seen on our trek). The health usage is what I have been told whilst here and not a recommendation based on science or personal experience:
Ajwain (also called Thymol or Carom) - both the leaves and the ovoid, light brown coloured seeds are used in Indian cookery. They come from a small flowering shrub of the same family as carrots and parsley– good for stomach pains, common colds, bronchitis and kidney problems
The spice trek and the fabulous meals we have enjoyed act as a reminder that it is often the little things in life (like the spices in the curries) that make things special and memorable.