We have just had the most beautiful holiday in Sri Lanka. One of its highlights was staying on a spice farm. It sounds exotic and it was. If you have ever been inside the tropical house at Kew Gardens or the Eden Project then imagine that scaled up 100 times. The smell, sounds and, most especially, the scale, shape and configuration of the vegetation and foliage were a complete pleasure to all the senses.
As part of our stay on the farm we were offered a tour by the resident Ayurvedic doctor. We all know that we are all removed from our food supply and there are examples of children who do not know that potatoes grow in the ground. On this walk we had the privilege of seeing spices, many of them common to us, growing in their natural unprocessed form.
Nutmeg and Mace
Our exploration of nutmeg and mace was a real revelation. I’m not sure I have ever seen a nutmeg tree before. Sure enough the fruit does look like a nut, a yellower and harder version of a apricot. The fruiting on the few trees on the farm was prolific.
When the outer skin is cut a kernel covered by a lacy red waxy material is revealed. The visual is amazing and then the aroma of nutmeg hits you. It’s the smell of milk puddings and childhood.
We have brought two complete nutmegs home with us and I am almost scared to open them as i want them to be a beautiful as they were in Sri Lanka.
Pepper is one of the main sources of income for the farm and, when we were there in April, ready to be harvested in about a month’s time. Interesting to note that once upon a time people in the UK paid their rent in peppercorns because they were so valuable – hence the term ‘peppercorn rent’ and now the value of that spice is still continuing.
The peppercorns seen on the bushes are green, when they are dried they turn into the familiar black peppercorns. The top layer of the peppercorn can also be taken away to reveal a red peppercorn and this can be dried to form a white peppercorn. I think I have this scenario right. I had always thought the different coloured corns were from different plants. We may treat peeper as an everyday spice, but what a clever plant to have 4 different sorts of spices from one seed.
I hope the photograph above gives you some idea of the beauty of the coconut palms on the farm
I hadn’t realised that cocoa was grown in Sri Lanka. Apparently it is a good crop for underplanting coconut palms. What surprised me the most was the size of the pod containing the beans, easily the size of a small coconut.
I do know that coffee was grown in Sri lanka as it was grown as a cash crop before it was decided that all the tea plantations be created. No tea on our spice farm as the land was not high enough and the tea produced would not of been high enough quality.
Like pepper cloves do not start off black and hard, but green and slightly soft. They look very innocuous on the tree no one would guess that they can pack such a powerful punch of flavour and aroma.
There were also chickens on the farm so we were able to handle this cutest of cute one day old chick.
I have called this a walk, however it was more like a botany and cookery lesson rolled into one. We all learnt loads and I hope my son remembers when he next helps cook a curry were all those spices may have come from.
I am linking up this post with Countrykids@coombemill where you will find lots of other families in the great outdoors.