The Spices Chest From Kerala

From being known as God’s own country to the state with 100% literacy rate; Kerala has grabbed the attention of not just the country, but the entire world. The state is recognized worldwide for its efficient medical care, rural development programs and an impressive sex ratio.

Do you know that Kerala is also known as the ‘Spice capital of the world’? Spices like cardamom, pepper, ginger, garlic, turmeric, clove, nutmeg, coriander etc. are used in almost every Kerala dish. The state’s spices are in hot demand in the international culinary markets. Let us try to find out the spicy details of these amazing spices.

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The Spices From Kerala

King & Queen of Spices
Let us begin with the ‘Queen of Spices’ itself i.e. Cardamom. It is one of the ancient spices and is famous for its pleasant aroma and taste. It is usually high priced and is traditionally exported to the Middle East by the state.

Do you know that Gahwa, a strong cardamom coffee is a must in Arab countries? People say that no day is complete without this spice tea. The ancient people of Egypt used to chew cardamom seeds as tooth cleaners. The Greeks and Romans used them as perfume. Almost all the spices cultivated in Kerala have medicinal properties. Cardamom helps in giving relief to stomach cramps, nausea, a sore throat and mouth ulcers.
The Spices Chest From Kerala
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Most of the spices of the state are produced in Idukki district and the neighboring areas. You can see many spice plantations in Thekkady, Wayanad and Munnar.

If cardamom is known as the Queen of Spices; ‘Pepper’ is the ‘King of Spices’. You can never find a home in Kerala where Black Pepper Tea is not made. This beverage improves appetite and is considered best to treat skin diseases and urinary stone.

Pepper comes in a lot of variety in the state. Malabar Garbled, Tellichery Extra Bold, Karimunda, Kuthiramally and Arakkulam Munda are some of them.
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Other Spices From Kerala
Moving on to ‘Turmeric’; Ayurvedic (traditional Kerala medicine) and Chinese medicine use it extensively. India also fought a patent right over this spice with few multinationals who were trying to patent Turmeric after finding out its immense uses. Apart from adding color and flavor to the food, turmeric can relieve inflammation and prevent bacterial infection. Turmeric is also known as ‘Indian saffron’ among the international audiences. ‘Allepey Finger’ is one of the popular varieties of this spice.

Next is ‘Clove’. All of us know that clove oil is a strong antiseptic. I am sure most of us have used it for an instant tooth relief or to anesthetize fish. I was surprised to know that it takes 7-8 years for the flower buds to appear on clove trees. When these buds change from green to pink, these are plucked and dried for 4-5 days until they become crisp and dark brown in color.

‘Tamarind’ cultivated in Kerala is in great demand in West Asia, Europe and the United States. It is used in cool beverages and seafood. ‘Coriander’ is usually available as ground, whole and extracts. The extract coriander is used as a flavoring agent and to pickle spices. It is good to have coriander paste with water after vomiting. With its detoxifying properties it cleans the stomach.

The above mentioned spices are used as home remedies in Kerala. For instance, turmeric paste is used to cure bee sting. Ginger paste with jaggery after food relieves indigestion. Coconut water and powdered cardamom is good in alleviating pain in urination. Applying castor oil on the feet can give you a good night’s sleep.

So next time you enter your kitchen, you should remember that the spices on the shelf not just add flavor to your food; they can save your lives as well.

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Surya Pillai
About the Author:

This article was authored by Surya Pillai, one of the authors of the blog - Kerala Ayurveda.

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