Spice Garden Tour, Kerala

Kerala is one of the southernmost states of India. It is world famous for it’s spices. It has several spice gardens all through the state. We happened to visit Kerala in November, 2010. On our way from Cochin to Munnar, we visited an enormously spread and beautiful Spice Garden.
It was a very informative and interactive trip. As, a guide took us around the spice garden, filling us in with knowledge about the background and history of spices of Kerala, different spice plants, their significance etc.
spicegarden_spice-min

History of the Kerala Spices

You will not be able to believe it that Kerala was a major spice exporter right from around 3000 BC !! It’s fame as a center of exotic spices travelled far and wide in the world. Soon, the Babilonians and Egyptians were importing spices from Kerala. Later, Arabs also started trading spices with Kerala. Actually, the spices of Kerala were so famous that in the old Sumerian records, Kerala is fondly referred to as “The Garden of Spice” or “The Spice Garden of India”. As the BC era came to closure, the fame of Kerala spices had reached to the Greeks and Romans. And they also came forth to do spice trading with Kerala, specially black pepper.

Later on, when Vaso da Gama discovered a direct route between Europe and India, then the Portuguese and Dutch started using this route to do frequent trading in spices of Kerala. Some even settled in Kerala, marrying the locals and thus giving birth to new hybrid cultures. Interesting, huh! The spices can add as much flavor to life as they do to the food!!

The spice gardens of Kerala

Thus, spice growing has been an integral part of Kerala since the beginning of time. As a continuation, several spice gardens exist in the state in different parts. And these garden host the exotic spices. Many of these gardens are located at strategic tourist locations. Thus, being frequented by tourists. The one we visited on way from Cochin to Munnar was also similar.

The Garden that we visited

This garden hosted plants and trees of almost all the spices that are used across India in everyday cooking like turmeric, coriander, chilli, cumin, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg etc. It also had plants like vanilla, whose extract is widely used for commercial purposes and as an active flavoring ingredient for many food preparations. Also, it hosted many vegetable plants but they were special.
For instance, we spotted a Brinjal plant that was supposed to have medicinal values. Then there are many other plants and trees which are used for some medicinal purposes or Ayurvedic purposes, like Eucalyptus, snake plant, mint, cocoa pods, ornamental pineapples, betle nuts, brahmi. And the list goes on. We saw a beautiful dwarf wild orange plant, ladened with fresh green oranges and couldn’t help clicking it.
Spice garden Kerala
We took a guided tour of the garden and the Guide filled us in with some really valuable information. Would it not have been for him, we won’t have known that the brinjal plant we were looking at had medicinal value. And that turmeric is added to almost all Indian curry preparation with other spices because it absorbs the negative effects and harshness of the other spices, balancing the combination in turn. Or the fact that this hive we observed high up on a tree was not the one made by honey bees but rather flying ants 🙂
Spice garden Kerala

The garden store

The garden also had a shop near the entrance from where one can buy different packaged products like spices, eucalyptus oil, handmade soaps from the extracts of the flora in the garden and various other such products of Ayurvedic or Herbal cosmetic value. And the bonus is that these are available at quiet reasonable prices in the spice garden. Maybe because they are extracted and prepared then and there itself!!
There is also a small nursery in one corner of the garden. From here, you can buy some of the spice plants and dwarf plants. But be specific and ask the guide if they will be able to thrive in the kind of climate that you come from. Otherwise, it will be a waste carrying them all along. We wished to buy some plants but the problem was we had just started our journey. We were going to be roaming around for the next few days. And, I am not sure if the plant would survive through the trip. So, we dropped the idea. Next time for sure!!

Famous Spices of Kerala

For your benefit, listing here the major spices that Kerala is specially known for. When you visit a spice garden, do go around and look for the corresponding plants. You may catch some breeding with the fruits. It will be fun :
Pepper

Pepper is known as the king of the spices. And Kerala is world famous as one of the leading suppliers of pepper across the world. From Kerala, pepper first traveled to Arab countries. And from there, it reached Europe. Since then the Kerala pepper has been making non stop rounds of the world from Kerala 🙂

Cardamom

While pepper is called the ‘king of spices’, cardamom is referred to as ‘the queen of spices’. It is a spice known to be as old as the human civilization itself. Kerala boasts to grow the best known variety of cardamom in India. And this is also exported to several parts of the world, with Europe being a major importer.

Cinnamon

A spice which originates from Sri Lanka, and is grown in a few parts of Kerala, Cinnamon boasts of high antioxidant properties. Kerala is also one of the major consumers of cinnamon, with most of it’s recipes including this spice. Cinnamon doesn’t have a strong flavor like most other spices, and is considered relatively mild.

Ginger

Ginger is a spice extensively used in Indian curries. It has many medicinal values. Again, ginger is grown extensively in Kerala and is also used heavily in the cuisines of Kerala. We also use ginger in our cuisines. Not only that, we do use it’s medicinal properties. For instance, when we get cold, we use ginger extract in hot water with honey for instant relief.

Turmeric

Yet another important spice used in Indian curries. Actually, turmeric is believed to have antiseptic properties. It is believed to be a cleanser of human body. It is highly used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicines. We , in India, also use turmeric for home remedies of sickness. For instance, when you get a sore throat or a body pain, add a pinch of turmeric to a glass of warm water or milk and drink it at night before bed. It provides immediate relief.

Conclusion

So you see, Kerala has a life long connection with spices. It’s really very interesting to visit a spice garden in the garden of spices!! And to learn about the different spices, their role in human life and their benefits. So, when you happen to visit Kerala, don’t forget the spice garden. And do tell us how was your experience there…we will be awaiting to hear your story.

Spice Garden in Kerala India, Visit one to learn about different spices, their history and significance.

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44 Responses

  1. I have never visited a spice garden but I bet it is great to see and smells wonderful. I will have to visit one when I go to India hopefully next winter. I would love to try the different spices in the great food over there 🙂

  2. I had no idea what some of the benefits of common spices were! I generally have followed my mom’s north indian cooking in the kitchen and am familiar with all of these. But I’m so glad I got to see your list with remedies including some I haven’t yet heard of!

    • Great that you are familiar with the spices, now that you know their benefits, you can go back and use the spices accordingly

  3. What a great post on the different everyday spices found in India! I didn’t know that Kerala is the world’s leading suppiler of peppers. I love these spices but it’s not always easy to get them in Canada due to the climate. I wish we had easier (and cheaper) access to turmeric and chili because they make food taste so good!

    • I can’t imagine life without these spices .. when you happen to visit the Indian subcontinent, do try out these spices

  4. How interesting. Ever since I have moved to a more plant based diet, I am finding myself more curious about the spices we use in our food for flavour. One of them that I am constantly learning more about is turmeric. It would be so wonderful to get some of the most natural forms of turmeric from the garden here.

    • Exactly Riely. You can easily grow turmeric in your pot or garden as well 🙂

  5. wellcaffeinatedtraveller

    I had no idea that Kerala was known for it’s spices! I only really knew about the Kerala backwaters so this is very interesting to learn. I would definitely like to take this tour!

    • Kerala is as much known for it’s spices as for the backwaters 🙂 I know you will enjoy your visit whenever it happens

  6. I’ve never been to a spice garden before (unless you count the handful of potted herbs on my balcony!). That’s crazy to learn that this region has been exporting since 3000BC! Wild! I feel like I won’t be able to look at spice in the same way now – so interesting to learn more about it!

    • Ha ha.. definitely Courtney, many a times we use so many herbs and spices without knowing their deeper story. These gardens reintroduce us to our own herbs and spices 🙂

  7. I love cooking with spices and it’s fascinating to see how they actually grow. I visited a spice garden in Zamzibar. But I had no idea that Kerala had spice gardens too.

    • As you might have found through the post, Kerala is known for it’s spices since ages. And there are plenty of spice gardens 🙂

  8. I have been to Kerala but I missed the Spice Garden. It’s cool they have plants like Brinjal too for medicinal purposes. I had no idea where Ginger, Cinnamon, Pepper or the others you mentioned came from! It’s a shame you couldn’t buy the plant to take home that’s the bad thing about traveling, you can’t buy everything.

    • You are right..as much we wanted, we couldn’t take the plants with us, but since then I have tried my hands on growing them from the seeds that we have at home and some have come out pretty well 🙂

  9. How interesting I haven’t even thought about visiting a spice garden during my planned trip to India but I am going to check it out now as looks cool. Could you smell all the spices as you were walking round?

    • Definitely Jenni. The whole place is filled with the soothing aura of the spices

  10. I have done the Kerela spice tour and I know what you mean. The spices there opened my eyes about what we get in Mumbai, devoid of the oils and less rich, yet more expensive.

    • You are so right..wish we could do a spice garden right in the heart of our urban dwellings

  11. Spice trails are quite refreshing …love the sights and sounds of it. And you should go there in monsoon. It is so lush green and beautiful. Thanks for those natural tips ….they really work – some of them!

    • Thanks Ami. I guess we went just after the monsoons, so, we found it to be super green all around

  12. Nice reading about the spice garden of Kerala. Kerala is indeed the spice garden of Kerala and has a very rich history of spice production and export. We have not visited any spice garden in Kerala and did not know that they organized guided tours. Had visited one in Goa though. Hope to cover this next time we are there in those parts.Where is this spice garden located, does it happen to be near Kochi?

    • Thanks Sandy N Vyjay. This one was on way from Cochin to Munnar, around 2 hours drive from Cochin. But Kerala is full of spice gardens, particularly the hilly side. So, you can spot one easily near Kochi

  13. I always use a lot of spices when cooking and most of them originate to India, such as curry and turmeric. It must be heaven for me to visit such a place filled with all spices!!

    • Plan a trip and you will have a blast :). This also means, you will like the food in India

  14. This long and storied history of Kerala makes me say wow. This place has been a part of human history for an unimaginably long time. We’d love to see this place just as an historical site, and all the wonderful spices are a big bonus. I wonder if the soil there is special somehow, from other natural features?

    • The soil is definitely quiet fertile. And the weather actually supports the spice plants. So, overall it has been a spice hub for ages. And of course the people here have become a pro with the spices after cultivating them for ages

  15. This post is so informative!!! i love to read about new things that i don’t know… Thanks for sharing with us 🙂

  16. Wonderful list and assortment of spicies, Ginger is a clear favourite of mine. I know Kerala is well-known for a lot, but I had no had no idea Kerala had that connection to spicies.

  17. That’s an interesting post ! I would love to visit India one day !

  18. I love spices. It must be awesome to visit the place with all these spices.

  19. This was fascinating to read. When I was a teenager I went on exchange to Ternate, a small island in Indonesia. They too have a rich history in the spice trade. I love the smell of spice gardens.

    • Thanks Jenni. If you love the smell of spice gardens, you are definitely going to love one. If you ever happen to visit Kerala, do visit the spice gardens

  20. I have never been to a spice garden before. Well, I’ve never been to India either. But this place sounds amazing. I love spices and I would love to see how their grown and the history of them. The fast that this area used to be the spice capital of India says so much. Amazing.

  21. Ance Antovska

    Very informative post it’s good to know about different spices and their benefits.

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