Spice plantation, Thekkady, Kerala
India has a very close association with spices, especially the state of Kerala, which produces the King of all spices – Pepper in abundance and more. Can you imagine these small seeds placed in your shelves could have caused wars and been one of the major reasons for shifts in power play and shape world economy?
Pepper plant — King of spices
Spices: In earlier times
Most of us love a sprinkle of pepper on our sunny side up, or a dash of it in our soup but quite some time back it was used by the military, in the field of medicine and in making their meals a little more delicious.
The extent of demand for pepper was so huge that the western countries were looking forward to colonise this part of India. Many records state that Kerala had business relations across the Mediterranean and the Arabic Sea; however, problem occurred after the arrival of Vasco Da Gama. Pepper became one of the most wanted spices and the native interests clashed with the foreign ones.
Interestingly, starting from the Arabs, who introduced the spice to the western world and monopolising the trade; the Greek forging new routes to get their hand in the business; Roman traders following the example of the Greeks; the Portuguese who gained entry through Vasco Da Gama; the Dutch East India company and finally the Britishers – pepper has played a huge role in world economy.
Spices: Present time
Cardamom — Queen of spices
Our visit to Kerala only reiterates this fact, as even today; there are spice plantations that are lined up one after the other in Idukki district (Thekkady). We toured this interesting plantation called The Spice Farm, which exports its spices to many countries abroad. Thajudeen explains that they have been in the business of spices for the past four generations. He in fact, took us on a tour of the plantation and explained interesting things about different spices.
Ripe coffee berries
The plantation smelled of different spices as he explained the plantation techniques and various facts about coffee berries, vanilla, cocoa, allspices and more. Not many knew that coffee beans are not directly harvested but the berries are plucked and roasted. Similarly, green cardamom pods that are smaller in size and are evenly coloured are the best choice as they are not bleached and retain the natural oils in their seeds.
All these spices that we had a look at are used commonly in Indian households including mine, however, we don’t think much about its origin or its history and evolution. This walking tour gave me a peek into all of this and has interested me and the wanderers with me to start a kitchen garden for things like turmeric, ginger, lemon grass and more!