by Mike Pardus
Okay, short one this time - and I'll get the visuals in later. A friend of our guide is plantation manager of a fairly extensive spice plantation in the "cardamom mountains" of northern Kerala. Usually not open to tourists, we arranged to have two guides - the chef of our hotel and the plantation manager. I had my reservations at first - it's been raining for days up here and a two hour, soaking wet walk in the forest did not sound all that great. Wrong.
It was incredible. The plantations used to specialize in only one spice, but because of quick and dramatic market fluctuations they found it more stable to diversify. Today, for the first time I got to see the common spices of my trade in their natural settings - vanilla beans, cardamom pods, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, ginger and turmeric all growing together - in a tangled hog-podge of jungle. The plantation manager would explain the how's and whys of the growing and the chef would give background on use. We quickly developed a game of guessing which spice grew on which bush by smelling and/or tasting the leaves. It was a really cool, VERY educational day. I have a ton of photos, which I will add when I can.
Thanks for reading - MP