The aroma of banana chips frying in the huge cauldron was a very tempting sight and was attracting us towards it like opposite pole of a magnet! Soon we were in the midst of the busy market with tourists making a beeline to the adjoining shops.
As you take a walk along the streets of Thekkady, in Kerala, one thing that strikes you first is the lingering aroma in the air. The scent of cloves, nutmeg, pepper, cinnamon or cardamom and sometimes a fragrance that combines the scents of two or more spices.
Soon we landed in one of the shops and were amazed to see the number of varieties of handmade soaps with fragrances of jasmine, sandalwood, rose, and every possible exotic flower, neatly wrapped in betel nut leaf. The shopkeeper was very friendly and on our inquiry suggested that he could arrange a visit to one of the Spice Gardens.
An auto rickshaw arrived and we set off for visit to the Spice Garden, a short drive of 4 km from the town. Every other house has a Spice Garden in the backyard where coffee plantations, cardamom, cinnamon, vanilla and many more play hide and seek with visitors. The owner of the place took us on a conducted tour. The air was fresh with the fragrant smell of black pepper, cardamom, cloves, peppercorn, long pepper, nutmeg, star anise, mace, cinnamon, ginger and at least a dozen more plants. There are many factors that make the plantation experience a memorable one.
For some, it could be the unassuming beauty of the tiny flowers of the cardamom that grow at the base of the plant; for others, the tantalizing aroma of cinnamon or cloves, and for some others, the cool breeze that lovingly strokes the green plantations and everything in it. It was the first time in my life that I tasted fresh seeds of green cardamom plucked and ginger pulled out from the soil and washed. I even tasted a Garam masala leaf which had been created by cross pollination of five varieties of spices. The pristine experience tingled the taste buds!
The pepper plantations are worth seeing. The sunlight seeping through the shapely leaves of the pepper plants is an alluring sight. The geographical and climatic peculiarities of Kumily and Thekkady region, like the cool climate and its elevation from the sea level make it ideal for spice cultivation. Besides the spices one cannot miss the banana and coconut plantations filling the gaps of land!
It is a great feeling to get up at dawn in the lap of Nature, smelling the fresh, aromatic air - almost like waking up in a green paradise that is far removed from our flawed planet.
Apart from being enjoyable, these plantation tours give tourists an insight into the growing, harvesting and processing of spices. The peeling and drying of cinnamon and the painstaking task of hand-pollination of vanilla can be observed.
Various parts of the plant like the dried seed, the fruit, the root, the bark and the vegetative substance are used in the industries of cosmetics and perfumery. Some spices like turmeric have high medicinal value and also have an important place in Hindu religious rituals. Garlic and ginger are two other spices that have medicinal value. They are also used as preservatives.
Godrej, a leader in the Indian perfumes and sprays could consider using some of the derivatives of these spices to add to their existing range of products and also consider manufacture of ‘Pepper Sprays’ to protect the women folk and prepare them against impending danger from those who have an evil eye!
PS: This is my entry for ‘Inspire a fragrance’ contest sponsored by Godrej and Indiblogger