As you take a walk along the streets of Kumily or the winding pathways among the plantations, the thing that strikes you first is the lingering aroma in the air. The scent may be of cloves, nutmeg, pepper, cinnamon or cardamom and sometimes a fragrance that combines the scents of two or more spices. The geographical and climatic peculiarities of Kumily such as the cool climate and its elevation from the sea level make it ideal for spice cultivation.
One of the major spices produced in the area is cardamom. The variety, Cardamom Small, botanically known as Elettaria Cardamom, is the one that is mostly grown here. The thick shrub-like cardamom plant usually grows at an altitude of 600 to 1200 metres from mean sea level (msl). Kerala contributes about 70 percent of the national production of cardamom with the major chunk coming from the plantations of Kumily.
The pepper plantations are something else that are worth seeing. The sunlight seeping through the shapely leaves of the pepper plants is an alluring sight.
There are many factors that make the plantation experience a memorable one. For some, it could be the unassuming beauty of the tiny flowers of the cardamom that grow at the base of the plant; for others, the tantalising aroma of cinnamon or cloves, and for some others, the cool breeze that lovingly strokes the green plantations and everything in it.
Most hotels and travel agencies conduct tours to spice plantations. Some plantations in Kumily have guest houses which tourists can use with prior permission from the owners.
It is a great feeling to get up at dawn in the lap of Nature, smelling the fresh, aromatic air - almost like waking up in a green paradise that is far removed from our flawed planet.
Apart from being enjoyable, these plantation tours give tourists an insight into the growing, harvesting and processing of spices. The peeling and drying of cinnamon, and the painstaking task of hand-pollination of vanilla can be observed on such tirps.
There are various places close to Kumily that are well-known for their sprawling cardamom plantations. These include places like Chakkupallam, Anakkara and Vandanmedu.
Use of spices
The spices collected from Kumily like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and so on are used for flavouring food as well as for preserving it. They also add nutritional value to food.
Various parts of the plant like the dried seed, the fruit, the root, the bark and the vegetative substance are used in the industries of cosmetics and perfumery. Some spices like turmeric have high medicinal value and also have an important place in Hindu religious rituals. Garlic and ginger are two other spices that have medicinal value. They are also used as preservatives.
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