Kerala: The Spice Garden of India

India is a vast country with 28 states, each having a distinct identity for itself. Like other states for the country are known for their rich sources and marvellous architecture, Kerala is known for being "the spice garden of India". Located in the Western Ghats, Kerala is a coastal state and ranked as one of the cleanest states of the country. Apart from its beautiful beaches, rich culture and heritage, the spices are grown here have been an identification mark of the state. Here’s why Kerala is called 

Why Kerala?

Spice Route Map (Source)
India is very popular for spices all around the world. We can say that India has a monopoly over spices as Kerala is a home of different and qualitative as well as a variety of spices. Irrespective of taste, it also helps people of Kerala to earn a living because spices are still a source of export, as Kerala is 'Spice Trade Hub'. Kerala is known as the spice garden of India as it has a variety of spices and is world-famous for it. 

The major locations where these spices are cultivated in Kerala are- Idukki and Wayanad. The favourable conditions for these spices to grow include hot and humid climate with abundant moisture and loamy soil or alluvial soil. The two major seasons in Kerala are summers and monsoon. Since the summers in Kerala provide all the sufficient conditions, it becomes the best time for their cultivation.

History

  • The history of the spice trade in Kerala dates back to 3000 B.C. Even then, Kerala was the chief exporter of exotic and aromatic spices like Cardamom, black pepper cons, etc.
  • The people of Egypt and Babylonia were the first importers and door openers for Indian spices in the Middle East. 
  • Subsequently, Arabs stepped into the business of importing and selling Indian spices in Arab countries. By the end of the B.C. era, these exotic spices exported from Kerala reached the Greeks through their trade with the Egyptians. 
  • This exchange established the famous Spice trade route. It was a route which connected the Greco-Roman world to Asia, and more precisely, to India. Before the beginning of the Christian era, Indian spices like ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper and turmeric were already famous in the Western world by the name of ‘Eastern spices’. 
  • Soon, the Arabs commenced direct trading of spices from Kerala to the Arab countries. 
  • Later on, in 1498 Vasco Da Gama, a Portuguese traveller reached the shore of Calicut in the Western Ghats. Soon after this discovery of a sea route to Indian coastal areas, many Portuguese and Dutch sailors and businessmen landed on India and started to export the spices from the coasts of Kerala to their countries. 

Types of Spices

Source
There is a wide variety of Spices grown in Kerala. Not only do these spices enhance the taste of the food, but they also help keep the body healthy and help cure many health-related problems. Ayurveda explicitly encourages the use of these spices for medicinal purposes.
  • Black pepper, also known as “the king of spices”,  is recommended to cure medical conditions rising out of deficiency of Vitamins as it is rich in Vitamins. Black pepper is the dried berry of Plant Piper nigrum. It requires a hot and humid climate to grow, exactly what Kerala has.
  • Cinnamon is beneficial for repairing damaged tissues and helps fight infections. It is extracted from the barks of Cinnamomum Verum. The oil extracted from this bark has immense medicinal value and essential components that help heal the wounds and fight fungal infections. Due to warming efficacy, Cinnamon is used as an aphrodisiac.
  • Turmeric is an extensively used spice which imparts beautiful colour to the food, also helps fight skin infections, acne and boosts our immunity. Turmeric is a natural antiseptic, blood purifier and its commercial uses include dying.  
  • Cardamom “the queen of spices”, helps control blood pressure and improve digestion. It is called so because of its flavour and aroma. The High Ranges of Kerala is the home of Cardamom. Because of its pleasant aroma, it is also used in perfumery. 
  • Similarly, spices like ginger, clove and nutmeg impart aroma and distinct flavour to the food and also helps increase metabolism and cure many skin infections. Nutmeg is used as an important ingredient in toothpaste, face creams and even soaps. 
These were some of the spices known and grown in Kerala which are healthy, tasty and precious also. Kerala has a very close connection with spices and it will continue forever. Kerala is a basket of spices. Right from these known spices to spices like white pepper, star anise, vanilla and mace, almost all kinds of spices are grown, consumed and exported far across the sea and across the country as well. So, rightfully, Kerala is the spice garden of India.

This post was published by Ishika Wahane

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