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From the Land of Spices

History unveils stories of foreign travellers who visited India centuries ago, for trading, and the main commodities were spices from Kerala, especially the black pepper, which is also known as Black Gold. Still spices such as cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, turmeric, clove, cinnamon, etc in addition to pepper, are exported to different parts of the world, and it is really a privilege to us, the people of Kerala, for being a part in adding fragrance and flavour to cuisines served all around the world.

Different parts of plants are used as spices, and there are a number of examples for all these types widely cultivated in Kerala, a few of which I will try to share with you.

The Queen of spices, Cardamom, one of the most expensive spices in the world, having a unique taste and aroma, is used for adding flavour to cuisines and in confectionary, whereas the essential oil made from it is used for the preparation of medicines. It is largely cultivated in the Idukki district of Kerala, a major part of which spreads in the western ghats, where the shadows of rain fed forests and loamy soil provide the most favourable conditions for cardamom cultivation.The mature seeds collected and dried in a particular way without losing the texture and colour, are highly in demand in Indian as well as international markets . Usually we welcome our guests with a very special cardamom flavoured hot tea which is really refreshing.

Dried cardamom

Ginger, which can be classified as a herb or a spice, is another major cash crop cultivated in Kerala on a large scale . The tuber is the edible part of the plant that can be used for adding flavour to food, and it is one of the major ingredients for the preparation of Ayurvedic medicines. It can be preserved for a long time in the dried form. It is one of the must have ingredients in every kitchen, and the ginger lemon combination is a wonderful home remedy for minor ailments such as stomach upset, nausea etc. The hot and spicy ginger curry, is one of the most important side dishes for Sadya, the feast on special occasions, for which boiled rice with a large number of side dishes are served on a cut banana leaf.

Fresh ginger

Turmeric, is another important spice cultivated in Kerala, and widely used all over the world for adding colour and flavour to cuisines. For culinary purposes, processed turmeric tuber is used whereas the raw tuber is used for the preparation of medicines. Modern studies have already proved the importance of curcumin, the alkaloid found in turmeric, for the treatment of a number of diseases including cancer. A mixture of raw turmeric paste and the juice of holy basil leaves, is a very effective home remedy for poisoning caused by insect bites. Turmeric has also got ritual importance, as it is offered to the deity in Hindu temples, especially where Devi, the feminine manifestation of God, is worshipped

Turmeric plants in our kitchen garden

As the climatic conditions are favourable, the Pepper plant popularly known as the King of spices or Black gold, is widely cultivated in Kerala. The creeper like stem usually grows up to a height of about

A ripe pepper corn.

ten metres on supporting trees. The mature berry like fruits, if properly dried, can be preserved for a very long period. Stem cuttings having at least two or three nodes are used for propagation. Though it is a wine like creeper, the pepper plants can also be grown well in pots, which is commonly known as Bush Pepper. There are a lot of advantages for growing bush pepper plants when compared to that of pepper wines. The bush pepper plant shown in the pic, is that grown in our kitchen garden, from which we get sufficient quantity of pepper corns for our kitchen needs.

A Bush pepper plant in a pot

Try this easy and spicy Pepper chicken recipe

Preparation and cooking time: One hour

Ingredients needed:

Chicken ( diced ) : One cup.

Onion ( thinly sliced ) : One

Green chilly : Three

Ginger garlic paste: One table spoon

Green pepper ( crushed ): One table spoon

Coriander powder : One table spoon

Garam masala powder : One tea spoon

Turmeric powder: ¼ teaspoon

Coconut milk ( thick ): Half cup

Oil: Two table spoons

Curry leaves: Two stalks

Mustard seeds: ¼ tea spoon

Salt: To taste

How to prepare:

Heat oil in a pan, splutter mustard seeds, add sliced onions and fry for a few seconds, add ginger garlic paste, crushed pepper and fry well till the colour begins to change. Add turmeric powder, coriander powder, garam masala powder and stir well. Add the chicken pieces, salt to taste and cook slowly on a low flame without adding extra water as the water from the chicken is sufficient and it will taste better. Cook for ten to fifteen minutes with occasional stirring, add coconut milk and keep on the flame for a few more seconds.

Your favourite spicy Pepper Chicken is ready.

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