I have just returned from a most remarkable journey to Kerala in south-west India.
Fort Cochin on the Malabar coast in Kerala has been for centuries the center of the world trade in spices, especially pepper, known as ‘ black gold’, cardamon and cinnamon.
Cochin was settled first by Arab and Jewish spice traders, then by the Portuguese, Dutch and English adventurers. Their influences are still evident in the rich and varied local cuisine and in the buildings they left behind.
Even today the Western Ghats, as the mountain chain is called, produces 40% of the world trade in these exotic spices.
Here a building built by the Gujarati, which were traders. Unfortunately the buildings are mostly abandoned.
Another Gujarati building.
Cardamon seeds with a cardamon flower. They grow at the very bottom of the plant, making the picking back breaking !
Here the women are sorting out the cardamon, choosing only the perfect, unbroken dry pod.
A bag of cardamon, ready for export.
Pepper is a beautiful vine, often grown up the trunk of a palm tree. The best pepper is called ‘tribal pepper’.
You can pick it green, in November, or let it ripen until March, for black pepper.
If you want white pepper, you soak the black pepper in water until the skin rubs off and releases the white pepper.