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Home - Kerala Spices

Kerala Spices

Some of the popular spices of Kerala that envelop the green Kerala hills in an everlasting fragrant cloud are ginger, bay leaves, curry leaves, turmeric, thyme, oregano, mint, rosemary, basil and sage. Caper Travel India offers to take you on an enamoring tour of Kerala spice plantations and shows you a delightful world of serenity and peace.

Kerala Spices

Kerala's history is closely linked with its commerce, which in turn was wholly dependent until recent times on its spice trade. Kerala was known for its spices and travellers around the world journeyed here to trade and to gain control over this rich land. It is believed that the spice trade dates back to three thousand years. Pepper still remains the king of Kerala's spices, but the state also has a very rich produce in cardamom, cinnamon , nutmeg, mace, ginger and turmeric. As in the past , the state continues to be the spice capital of the world. Over twelve varieties of spices, including ginger, garlic, cardamom, vanilla, pepper, cinnamon, coffee, tea, clove and nutmeg are cultivated in Idukki and the surrounding areas.

Scientific Name: Elletteria Cardamom - Best altitude for cultivation : 1500 m above see level. Temperature : 10 - 25°C. Rainfall required. 1500 mm. Propagation : Seedlings and vegetative propagation. Pollinating agent : The honey bee. Harvest season : October to February.

Scientific Name : Vanilla Fragrans - Rainfall Required : 1500 - 3000 mm Propagation : Shoot cutting.
Pollination: Artificial.

The rostellum of the flower is pushed back with a pointed bamboo splinter and the overhanging anther is pressed against the stigma with the thumb, thus smearing pollen over it. The ideal time for pollination is 0600 to 1300 hrs. A tropical orchid requires a warm climate with frequent rains; Vanilla grows best in uncleared jungle areas where it can get filtered sunlight. A creeper, the plant requires support up to a height of about 135 cm. The plant usually begins to flower by the third year. The bean takes 10 to 12 months to reach full maturity.

Scientific Name : Piper Nigrum - Temperature : Tolerance -10° C to 40° C. Optimum -20°C to 30°C. Rainfall required : 2500 mm. Propagation : Stem cutting. Important varieties : Panniyur -1, Karimunda, Kuthiravally, Arakkulam Munda, Balankotta and Kalluvally.

The pepper plant grows best in a warm and humid climate. Berries mature and are ready for harvest in about 180 to 200 days. Black pepper is produced by sun drying the mature pepper berries for 3 - 5 days after they are separated from the spikes by threshing and white pepper by retting mature berries in clean water for 5 - 7 days, removing the outer skin and drying the seed after thorough washing.

Scientific Name : Eugenia Caryophyllus - Clove trees begin to bear flowers 7-8 years after planting. Unopened flower buds are carefully picked when they turn from green to pink. The buds are then allowed to dry for 4-5 days till they become crisp and dark brown in colour.

Scientific Name : Cinnamon Zeylanicum - Cinnamon plants are ready for harvest about 3 years after planting. Harvesting is done twice year - in May and November. The bark of the cut down shoots is split on the day of harvest itself and dried in the sun for 2 - 5 days. The dry quills or bark are packed in bundles for trade. Leaves and tender twigs are used for extraction of oil by distillation.

Scientific Name : Myristica Fragrans - The Nutmeg tree bears fruit throughout the year, but peak harvest season is from December to May. The nuts split open when the fruits are fully ripe. After dehusking, the red feathery aril (mace) is removed, flattened out and dried in the sun for 10 - 15 days. The nuts are dried separately for 4 - 8 weeks till the kernels rattle within the shells.

Pepper has been grown in India for centuries. An indigenous plant of India, Pepper is also called the "King of Spices" because of its medicinal properties and its uses as a preservative and flavoring agent. Pepper was a very important spice in medieval times and the Mediterranean traders who sold pepper to the countries of Western Europe, made fortunes through the pepper trade. Arab traders exported pepper from Cochin and other ports on the Malabar Coast of Kerala across the Arabian Sea on boats called dhows. The pepper was then carried by camel caravans to trading centers in the Mediterranean and sold to buyers, until it finally arrived on the dining tables of households in Europe. Even today the pepper grown in Kerala is considered to be among the finest pepper in the world. Two of the best-known varieties of pepper are "Malabar Garbled" and "Tellicherry Extra Bold." You can see pepper being grown and harvested on Kerala.

Cardamom has been exported from India for ages. This exquisite spice is grown in the tropical rain forest plantations of Kerala and its green seeds have been chewed raw and added to food preparations, wines and sweets for its pleasant aroma, since ancient times. Exported from the ports on Kerala's Malabar Coast, cardamom found its way to the banquet halls and bakeries of Europe, where it was valued for its preservative and aromatic qualities. Called the "Queen of Spices" for its many uses, Cardamom from Kerala is treasured around the world even today. Varieties such as 'Alleppey Green Superior' are famous for their size, green color and aroma. You can see Cardamom plants and seeds in the spice plantations of Kerala.

The botanical name of the cardamom plant is Elettaria cardamomum. The plant is an herb, which flourishes in tropical plantations in the Malabar Coast of Kerala. The fruit capsule that encloses the seeds of the Cardamom plant is dried and used as a spice. Cardamom oil is also used in toothpaste, perfumes, food preparations and medicines. Cardamom is eaten as a breath freshener and is added to tea and coffee for aroma and its medicinal properties.

Cinnamon plants:
The botanical name of the Cinnamon plant is Cinnamomum zeylanicum. Cinnamon is a bushy tree, grown in Kerala and other tropical regions of the world including Sri Lanka. The inner bark of the Cinnamon tree is removed and dried and used as a spice. The bark is usually stored in the shape of a roll or quill, to ensure its aroma is retained. The brown colored bark is easily chewable and is also used in powdered form as a flavoring agent in food and various beverages. It is often used in cakes and puddings because the pleasant aroma of cinnamon effectively conceals the smell of eggs used in these confections. Cinnamon oil, which is an essential oil, is also distilled and used as a flavoring agent and for medicinal uses. In Europe Cinnamon was used in religious rituals and in ancient Egypt it was sought after as a preservative in the embalming of mummies.

India produces 50% of the world's ginger. An underground stem or rhizome, ginger has been grown in India for centuries. Prized in the West for its preservative and medicinal properties, ginger is used as flavoring and preservative agent in food and pickles and as a remedy for coughs and colds. Varieties such as "Cochin Ginger" and "Calicut Ginger" grown in Kerala, India, are famous worldwide. Ginger can be eaten raw, cooked in various ways, dried, powdered and ground into paste. Ground ginger and garlic paste forms the basis for many Indian curries. See the various forms of Ginger in the spice plantations of Kerala.

Things to do
Things to do in Kerala:

1. Ride a canoe:
Drift along serene waterways in a country craft, enjoy the breeze, answer a cuckoo's call. Wave back at the cheerful village children on the banks. Invite some of them to top in for a ride.

2. Wear jasmine in your hair: Get yourself a string of jasmine - the natural ornament for your hair. You could even pluck them fresh from a garden and string them yourself.

3. Visit the local markets:
Small stalls with fresh vegetables, fruits, fish, chicken. High-pitched salesmen luring you with impossible bargains. Visit these bustling markets, or chandas.

4. Stay in a tree house:

Spend romantic nights in tree houses, washed in the sweet scent of forest flowers. Let the sounds of the forest fill your dreams.

5. Have a mud bath:
Go in for mud therapy and discover its healing properties at the Kavil Bhavan Yoga and Cultural Centre at Nileswaram.
Don't Miss in Kerala
Malabar : Theyyams in the Kannur Kavus. A taste of Kallumakaya and Mappila fish pathiri. Halwa from Sweet Meat Street.

Kochi : The gateway of Judaism, Christianity and Islam in India.Birthplace of Adi Sankaracharya. A walk in St Thomas' footsteps. Bell-metal ware. Bathing in waterfalls.

The Western Ghats : Treks through Sahya Hills. Wildlife viewing from boat. Tea tasting in India's only Tea Museum. Spice shopping at Kumily.

Kuttanad : Backwater Cruise. Kallu, Kappa and Karimeen at Karimpankala. Backwater island.

Travancore : Houseboat-makers village. Late-night Kathakali in Thiruvalla. Elephant Camp at Konni