India: Spice Plantations in Goa & Periyar

One very last India post for you — and this is one of my favourite recaps!

We were lucky to go to two different spice plantations when we were in South India: one in Goa, and one in Periyar (Kerala).  The pictures in this post are from both spots.

We had two lovely guides, both of whom were very knowledgeable and personable!

Our lovely Goa guide:

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Our charming Periyar guide:

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On our tour of the spice plantations we got to see how all the different spices used in Indian cooking (and cooking around the world!) are grown.

Vanilla grows on these vines:
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Lemongrass looks like a common houseplant (but smells oh-so-much-better):
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Fiery red chilies:
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Hot red piri piri chilies are teeny tiny but deadly:
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Fresh cinnamon is my new favourite smell in the entire universe, and isn’t the bark just gorgeous:
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Turmeric is a root and grows underground — you’d miss it if you weren’t hunting for it:
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Cloves look like this when they’re growing, all green and fresh:
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And like this when they’re dried and ready for the kitchen:
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We found two types of cardamom — white cardamom (the kind we are used to, and which has the most intoxicating smell when it’s fresh — I think I’d wear cardamom perfume if I could!):
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And black cardamom, which is smokier and something I’d love to start experimenting with in the kitchen:
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Spicy hot black peppercorns:
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And the milder red peppercorns:
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Coffee beans (!):
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And our Goa guide showed us the components of paan, which is a mixture of spices and tobacco (cardamom, betel nut) rolled up in a betel leaf. Chewing paan is highly carcinogenic, so we stayed clear of trying them, but enjoyed learning about them.

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They grind the spices in the largest stone mortar and pestles I’ve ever seen:
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We also stumbled upon a number of fruit and vegetable trees.

Like jackfruit:

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Baby pineapples:

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Red pineapples:
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Baby mangoes:
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Ginormous papayas:
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Round red eggplants, that I thought were tomatoes, but our guide swore up and down are a varietal of eggplant:
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But we also saw eggplants I recognized:
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Bitter gourd (aka. bitter melon):

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Did you know that bananas grow this-side-up? I thought they were upside-down!
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A huge lemon — which was bigger than the boyfriend’s head!
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Cashews, which grow in yellow/red cashew fruits — we eat the nut:
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Yellow and red cacao pods (inside are the beans that we use for chocolate):
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The wreckage of some coconuts:
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And some gorgeous flowers. Many of them are used in ayurvedic medicine to heal many ailments, and some are ornamental. I don’t know flower names, so you get a pretty set of unlabeled flower photos:

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Amongst the flora, we also found some local fauna in the happy puppies that lived on the plantation:
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It was hard not to think about food while traipsing through the plantations and talking about all the spices. So we were doubly excited to get Indian food made on the plantation with their spices and local, organic veggies:
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As always, I really enjoyed the spicy pickle that accompanied the curries:
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And the curries were divine — I always love okra:
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A gorgeous cabbage curry with mustard seeds and coconut milk:
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A potato curry (and to drink — feni — a very boozy local firewater):
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All served with light & crispy papadums:
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On our way out we got to take one last look at the surroundings:
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And the water buffalo:
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It was so interesting and eye-opening to see just where all the spices come from, and to smell and touch them growing fresh on the trees. Every time I open a jar of dried spices here at home, I take a big sniff and remember India.

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Categories: Travel, Vegetarian

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2 Comments on “India: Spice Plantations in Goa & Periyar”

  1. June 11, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

    I have so enjoyed reading about your trip to India and totally inspired me to want to make the trip (it’d never really been in my list). And congratulations on your engagement! Thanks for a truly interesting blog!

    • June 11, 2012 at 6:32 pm #

      Thank you so much, Charlotte!!! That makes me so happy!

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