Spices are defined as "a strongly flavored or aromatic substance of vegetable origin, obtained from tropical plants, commonly used as a condiment". In ancient times, spices were as precious as gold; and as significant as medicines, preservatives and perfumes. India - the land of spices plays a significant role in the global spices market. No country in the world produces as many kinds of spices as India with quality spices come from Kerala. Many different spices are cultivated in Kerala. Some of the spices that Kerala is famous for and which you will see on tours of the spice plantations of Kerala, are: Pepper, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Ginger, Vanilla, Nutmeg.

PEPPER: 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. 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 Bol. The plant is a climbing vine, which grows in tropical forests in the Malabar Coast of Kerala. Pepper grows around the year and requires the support of a tree or an artificial frame around which the green stem of the pepper plant entwines itself. The part of the pepper plant that is consumed is the fruit. The berries of the pepper plant are reddish green when unripe and become black when dried. These black berries are added whole or ground and used as flavoring and preservatives in food. When the black outer covering is removed and the berry is dried and processed white pepper is produced. The roots and vines of the pepper plant are also used for medicinal purposes. Pepper is used in the treatment of rheumatism.

CARDAMOM: If pepper is the king of spices Cardamom is the Queen among the spices. 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. 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. 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: Cinnamon, which is the inner bark of a tree of the laurel family, was once so sought after in Europe that it was worth more than its weight in gold. One can see cinnamon plants in their natural state and watch the process of harvesting cinnamon from the trunks of Cinnamon trees in the state of Kerala. Carried to Europe by Arab traders from Kerala's spice coast Cinnamon is now an integral part of European cuisine. Smell the aroma of cinnamon in its natural state in the spice plantations. 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.
GINGER: 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. Ginger is an underground stem or rhizome. The part of the plant visible above ground consists of the stem and leaves. Ginger is usually sold as a fresh rhizome or as a dry rhizome. Ginger is also sold in powdered form to add to dishes for flavoring. Ginger has been used for centuries for it is believed to warm the body and is therefore used in the treatment of coughs and colds.
VANILLA: The characteristic flavor of Vanilla is extracted from the seedpods of the Vanilla plant. The plant is a tropical climbing orchid, which is native to parts of Central America, Africa, including Madagascar and French Polynesia. The stem of the plant entwines itself around a tree or support and climbs upwards. The unripe fruit or seedpod of the Vanilla plant is harvested when it turns golden green in color and is about 8 inches long. The fresh seedpod has no fragrance. The characteristic fragrance of Vanilla develops as a result of processing, which includes exposure to heat and cold. The seedpods turn chocolate brown in color, after which they are left to dry for several months. The seedpods become covered with small crystals of vanillin, which is secreted by the fine hair in the lining of the seedpods. This vanillin gives off the distinctive aroma of vanilla. The seedpods are then crushed and vanilla is extracted for use as a flavoring agent in cookery and confectionery.
NUTMEG: When you tour the spice plantations of Kerala you might be reminded of a popular children's nursery rhyme which has the following lines: "I had a little nut tree/ Nothing would it bear/ But a Silver Nutmeg / And a Golden Pear / The King of Spain's daughter / Came to visit me/ and all for the sake / Of my little nut tree!" The poem refers to the historical importance of Nutmeg, which was an important commercial crop in the 19th century. Nutmeg is used as a flavoring agent in various culinary dishes, including cakes and puddings. When you travel to Kerala you can see Nutmeg grow in abundance in the spice plantations of Kerala with Kerala Backwater. The Nutmeg tree is a tropical evergreen tree, which was originally only found in the Spice Islands of Indonesia. Introduced to India by colonial traders, Nutmeg now grows abundantly in the spice plantations of Kerala. The Nutmeg tree can grow up to 20 meters. The Nutmeg fruit looks similar to an Apricot. When the fruit is ripe, it splits revealing a crimson seed cover and a brown seed. The seed cover is harvested and dried as the spice called Mace. The seed is gathered as Nutmeg. Its shell is broken and the Nutmeg kernels, which are grayish-brown, oval-shaped seeds, with rough surfaces, are collected. Nutmeg is powered and used to add flavor to many dishes and is also used in the perfume industry. Nutmeg also has medicinal properties and is used in the form of oil to treat rheumatism.

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10/29/2008 11:10 pm delete

thank you for some of the images, but they are too small and i was looking for a video on how to harvest cinnamon.
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