SPICE TOUR

Brief History

Almost like a big Easter egg hunt, visitors go from plantation to plantation and from plant to plant trying to find the spice within. A guide may use a knife to carve off a root or branch or bark and then ask you to smell or taste it to guess what it is. Use caution with the bright colored ones because turmeric can leave a stain on clothes that will last a lifetime. Nutmeg grows on a tree and is sort of the pit of a fruit that looks somewhat like an apple. The nutmeg trees are huge and the under-forest is dark. Vanilla is a vine that grows on large trees and cardamom seeds grow at the base of large, ginger-cousin light green plant that has shoots or runners from which the seeds are picked. Cinnamon leaves are good for chewing and pepper is hot, green and fresh tasting before it is dried and ground to become black pepper.

The guides may offer you a green coconut while you're on the tour and they're very good. Don't expect a Pina Colada, green coconuts don't have sweet milk – it's more like subtly flavored water – and the meat is delicious. All along the tour there are kiosks where tourists can buy packaged spices including the following: turmeric, tandoori, vanilla beans and extract, masala, hot chilies, black pepper (ground or whole), cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon sticks or powder, saffron (not locally grown but affordable), ginger, and others. Tours can be expensive so shop around or ask a reputable hotel to set up the guide and driver.