Kerala's Pepper

It was while traveling in Kerala, a State at India's southernmost tip that I made the acquaintance of a pepper bush.
 I' m a reasonably good cook and I love spices. But it never crossed my mind to look up pepper's origins or at least see what the plant looks like.

Among the tea plantations tall, branchless trees offer pepper climbers support

So it came as a wonderful surprise to see the plant in a tea and spice plantation up in the cool misty hills of Thekkady. 
I felt like a city kid ,who believes chickens have four legs, because the supermarket package contains four drums and then sees for the first time a real live chicken...
The wonder of it!! :)

These little green berries is the pepper we use. Depending on the way it is processed it becomes black,green,white or red.

Pepper bush only grows in a 20 degrees zone around the Equator. The closer to it, the hotter the flavor.
 When the berries ripen, they are harvested, sun dried, an enzyme makes its magic and they become black pepper. Take the husk off before drying and you have white pepper.
If the berries are harvested a little before ripening and are not dried,  you get the green pepper corns. 
Keep the berries on the branch,cut the branch and let them ripen there and they turn into red pepper.

Tea bushes sparkle on the slopes of Western Ghatts, where Thekkady and several other hill posts are located. 

India is pepper's birthplace and produces 50% of the planet's supply. Pepper was and still is the "King of Spices". Once upon a time,it was worth it's weight in gold, it was worth much more than gold to be precise. 

Workers-mainly women- from the neighboring State of Tamil Nandu harvest the tea bushes, plucking only the freshest of the new leaves. They and their families live in the small houses you see beyond the path.

As sworn coffee lovers,both me and my husband didn't pay much attention during the tour of the tea plant, where the leaves are dried,fermented, made into powder and packed.
But we enjoyed the tea nevertheless

In Thekkady if you need a banana you just go for a short walk outside

Along with pepper there were vanilla plants,nutmeg,cinnamon,clove, cardamon, in short all kinds of wonderful aromatic spices. We had to buy ourselves an-otherwise not really needed-large suitcase, just to stuff it with kilos of exciting spices for us and for friends/relatives.

Tourists who reach Thekkady are mainly Indians taking a break from the heat down the coast and the plains  and visiting  the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. We spend three nights at Taj Garden Retreat, which is quite decent.
I slept feeling really safe, as this majestic guy-the hotel's mascot-was patrolling the grounds

1 comment:

  1. *claps hands in excitement* Oh you lucky, lucky girl!!! I have never been to India and I am so envious!! What a wonderful adventure you had! And to be honest with you, I didn't know where black pepper comes from, though I did get as far as a pepper plant...but didn't know what sort it was. I love that you had pictures to share! I would have never guessed!

    It must have been very interesting to visit the tea and coffee plantations and to see how they were made. What a glowing image of the tea bushes, so lush and green! I enjoyed the picture of the workers with the bundles on their heads--I always stare at such images with wonder. It seems so odd to carry things that way, but obviously it's very efficient and perfect for heavy loads once one learns to balance!

    The place where you stayed looks very nice, and of course, the turkey is just hilarious! Such a ridiculous looking creature, and I love them to pieces! They are so sure they are elegant and regal, but they don't have a mirror, do they?! :D