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Kerala, the world’s spice garden

kerala

This may in fact be the last Eden on our planet. The setting is bursting with lush greenery, and covered with rice fields, coconut palms, tea bushes, coffee plants, and fruit trees.
And nestled among the rolling, verdant hills is the spice garden…

Rooted in history

Kerala is a peaceful state in south-west India where serenity is part of life – it is here that ayurvedic medicine was born. The port towns on the Malabar Coast bordering the Arabian Sea were trading posts on the route to India, and have retained traces of their Phoenician, Roman, Chinese, and Arab heritage. Later, during the Middle Ages, it was the Portuguese led by Vasco da Gama and the Dutch who introduced the West to these substances obtained from barks, roots, leaves, and pods. These intriguing ingredients lent a mysteriously exotic aura when seasoning dishes, but also offered other precious virtues and were used in medicine, cosmetics, and even as aphrodisiacs!

These tropical spices replaced others used previously in Europe, and quickly shot to popularity. Their irresistible, faraway flavors were soon highly-prized commodities, and sent merchants scrambling to find more.

Wealth and diversity

With its ghats, mountains older than the Himalayas, forests filled with rosewood and sandalwood trees, and deep jungles home to wild elephants and tigers, Kerala is brimming with countless natural riches. And its spices are a key part of that wealth.

It is in these blissful lands that we find pepper (the world’s only international pepper exchange is still located in the city of Kochi), nutmeg, cloves, curry leaves, saffron, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom. This final spice is the most expensive in the world after saffron and vanilla, and can be mixed with green tea to create an intensely healthful elixir.

This slice of heaven imbued with the heady scents and flavors of foreign spices was once ruled over by maharajas renowned for looking after their subjects’ education and well-being.
It’s not for nothing one of Kerala’s nicknames is “God’s Own Country.”