Kerala Spices in Our Spice Boxes
History of Kerala Spices
Since ancient times, Kerala is known as the "Land of Spices" for a reason. The state's spice trade dates back to ancient times, when it was a hub for the spice trade between Europe and Asia. Pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger were highly valued by traders from around the world, and Kerala was the major supplier of all these spices.
Over the centuries, many countries, the Portungese, Dutch and the British have vied to control the Kerala spice trade, as it was extremely lucrative. The ancient Greeks and Romans were among the first to trade with Kerala for its spices. During the Middle Ages, Arab traders dominated the spice trade in Kerala, which was known as the "Arabian Land of Spices." Later in the 15th century, Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama arrived in Kerala and it was the beginning of European colonialism in India.
The spice trade brought people from all over the world together. Merchants from Europe, Asia, and Africa traveled to Kerala to trade for spices. This led to the exchange of ideas, cultures, and religions. The spice trade also helped to create a global economy, which linked people from different parts of the world together in a common network of trade and commerce.
This booming spice trade brought wealth and prosperity to Kerala's coastal communities, and it played a crucial role in the state's cultural and economic development. The demand for spices from Kerala remained high even after the end of colonialism, and it continues to be one of the state's most important industries.
Today, Kerala is still known for its high-quality spices, which are grown using traditional farming methods and processed in small batches to ensure their quality.
The state's spice markets are a feast for the senses, with colourful displays of fresh and dried spices that are sure to make any food lover's mouth water.
At Vedic Flavors, we normally use the major Kerala spices in our spice gift boxes. We source these spices from small farmers and spice farms in Kerala and have been promoting them under our brand on Amazon India for almost 2 years.
All Indians regardless of their state and culinary preferences, use black pepper or kalimirch, in many of their recipes. In fact, Kerala accounts of more than 95% of the total black pepper output in India.
Black pepper is the world's most traded spice, and Kerala is one of the largest producers of black pepper in the world, as the climate and soil of Kerala are ideal for growing black pepper. The state has a humid tropical climate with an average annual rainfall of 3,000 mm.
Black pepper is grown on vines that climb up to 30 feet tall. The vines are planted in May – June and harvested in the November - December. The unripe berries are picked and then dried in the sun. Once they are dried, they turn black and become what we know as black peppercorns.
Kerala is known for its high-quality black pepper. The state's climate and soil are ideal for growing black pepper, and the farmers of Kerala have a long tradition of growing and harvesting the spice.
There are two major varieties of black pepper grown in Kerala: Tellicherry pepper and Malabar pepper. Tellicherry pepper is the most popular variety and is known for its large, bold flavor. Malabar pepper is smaller and has a more delicate flavor.
Kerala pepper is exported all over the world as it is very versatile and is used in a variety of cuisines, including Indian, Chinese, and European. Black pepper is a valuable crop for the farmers of Kerala since centuries.
You can check out Vedic Flavors Black Pepper Bold on Amazon India.
Cardamom or elaichi is called the Queen of Spices and India is one of the largest producers of cardamom in the world. It's the world’s third most traded spice and has been used for centuries for its culinary and medicinal properties.
Kerala is the largest producer of green cardamom in India. The state accounts for more than 80% of the total cardamom output in India. The major cardamom growing districts in Kerala are Idukki, Wayanad, Kannur, Malappuram, Kozhikode, Thrissur, and Palakkad.
Cardamom is a perennial plant that can grow up to 10 feet tall. It is grown on vines that are trained on trellises. The unripe pods are picked and are then machine dried. Once they are dried, they turn green and become what we know as cardamom pods.
Cardamom farming is a labour-intensive process and most of the labour is Tamil descendants, who cross over the border and work in cardamom farms. The vines need to be regularly pruned and watered. The pods need to be picked carefully to avoid damage.
There are two major varieties of cardamom grown in Kerala: Malabar cardamom and Mysore cardamom. Malabar cardamom is the most popular variety and is known for its large, bold flavour. Mysore cardamom is smaller and has a more delicate flavour.
Kerala is the largest exporter of green cardamom in India. The major export markets for Kerala cardamom are the United States, Europe, and China. Cardamom is a valuable export commodity for Kerala. It helps to generate foreign exchange and boost the economy of the state
You can check out Vedic Flavors Black Pepper Bold on Amazon India.
Clove, or Lavang, is one of the most important spices in the world, and according to the Indian Spices Board, Kerala is the largest producer of cloves in India, accounting for more than 80% of the total production. Kerala's warm and humid climate is perfect for cultivating clove, which is why the state has been a hub for clove farming for centuries.
Clove is mainly grown in the hilly regions of the state, particularly in the districts of Wayanad and Idukki. These areas are known for their rich soil, which is ideal for growing this fragrant spice. The clove trees in Kerala grow to an average height of around 10-12 meters and have a dark, shiny foliage.
Clove is harvested twice a year, and the buds are picked when they are still closed. The buds are then left to dry for several days until they turn brown. The clove oil is extracted from the buds through a distillation process, while the dried buds are used whole or ground as a spice.
Clove is exported from Kerala to various parts of the world, including the US, Europe, and the Middle East. In addition to its use in cooking, clove is also used in the production of clove oil, which has medicinal properties and is used in aromatherapy.
Clove tea, made by steeping whole cloves in hot water, is also a popular beverage in many parts of the world, known for its anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to soothe a sore throat.
Please check out Vedic Flavors Cloves on Amazon India:
Star anise, also known as chakri phool in Hindi, is a beautiful spice grown in the hilly regions of Kerala. The star-shaped fruit of the Illicium verum plant is picked before ripening and dried, giving it its characteristic dark brown color.
Star anise is widely used in traditional medicine and culinary practices, and is known for its typical sweet, licorice-like flavor and aroma.
Star anise farming in Kerala follows traditional, sustainable practices, with the fruits being hand-picked from the trees. The areas around the tourist districts of Idukki, Wayanad and Munnar are some of the major regions where star anise is farmed. The spice comes in different sizes, with the larger ones or the perfect star shaped ones, being preferred for culinary purposes, and the smaller ones for medicinal use.
Star anise has many benefits. It is known to aid digestion, boost immunity, and alleviate cough and cold symptoms. Star anise tea is a popular herbal tea made by steeping star anise in hot water, and is believed to promote relaxation and relieve stress.
Star anise is also exported to various countries, with China being the largest importer of this spice. It is widely used in Chinese cuisine, and also in several other Asian and Middle Eastern dishes. With its unique flavour and health benefits, star anise is a valuable spice that continues to gain popularity around the world.
Vedic Flavors Star Anise is listed on Amazon India:
Nutmeg, known as Jaiphal in Hindi, is a highly aromatic spice that has been an essential ingredient in many cuisines across the globe. This spice is native to Indonesia, but it is widely cultivated in Kerala, India. The nutmeg tree is an evergreen tree that grows up to a height of 20 meters. The tree produces yellow fruits that resemble apricots. The fruit contains a seed, which is dried to produce nutmeg spice.
In Kerala, nutmeg is grown in the districts of Kottayam, Pathanamthitta, and Idukki. The spice is harvested twice a year, during the months of May-June and October-November. The harvesting process is manual, where the fruit is plucked, and the seed is separated from the fruit. The seed is then dried in the sun or in a hot-air oven.
Nutmeg is used in Indian cuisine to prepare desserts, such as kheer, barfi and jalebi. It is also used to add a warm and nutty flavour to Indian curries like butter chicken, rogan ghosh and vindaloo, chicken tikka masala, lamb biryani and samosas.
Apart from its culinary uses, nutmeg is also used for medicinal purposes. The spice is rich in essential oils, which have anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. Nutmeg tea is believed to help in digestion, improve brain function, and aid in sleep.
Kerala is one of the major exporters of nutmeg to countries like the USA, the UK, and Germany. Nutmeg is also used in the production of cosmetics and perfumes. Overall, nutmeg is a highly valued spice that not only adds flavor to food but also provides numerous health benefits.
Nutmeg mace, also known as Japatri, is an aromatic spice derived from the nutmeg tree, which is primarily grown in the hilly regions of Kerala, India. The nutmeg tree produces both nutmeg and mace, with the latter being the flowery outer covering of the nutmeg seed.
Nutmeg and mace differ in their flavour and aroma, with mace having a more delicate, sweet, and subtle flavour. The cultivation of nutmeg mace requires precise techniques, and it is mostly cultivated by small-scale farmers in Kerala.
Mace is used in various culinary preparations, from sweet to savoury dishes, and is an essential ingredient in Indian cuisine. Some common culinary uses of nutmeg in Indian cooking:
Garam Masala: Nutmeg is a key ingredient in garam masala, a popular spice blend used in many Indian dishes. It adds a warm, sweet, and slightly nutty flavour to the mix.
Biryani: Nutmeg is often added to biryani, a flavourful rice dish that is popular in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. It enhances the dish's aroma and flavour.
Meat dishes: Nutmeg is a common ingredient in meat dishes, such as kebabs and curries. It adds a rich and aromatic flavour to the dish.
Desserts: Nutmeg is used in many Indian desserts, including kheer (rice pudding) and ras malai. It adds a warm and comforting flavour to the sweet treats. It is also a popular spice for baking and is used in cakes, pastries, and pies for its sweet aroma and flavour.
Apart from its culinary uses, nutmeg mace has several medicinal properties. It is believed to have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, and is used in traditional medicine to treat digestive problems, nausea, and anxiety.
From Kerala, nutmeg mace is primarily exported to the Middle East and Europe, where it is used in both traditional and modern cooking. With its unique flavour and aroma, nutmeg mace is a popular spice among chefs and food enthusiasts alike.
Cinnamon, also known as Dalchini in Hindi, is a popular spice that is widely used in Indian cuisine. Cinnamon is grown in many districts of Kerala, but the major districts are Kannur, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Malappuram, and Thrissur.
Cinnamon is a tropical plant that grows best in warm, humid climates. Cinnamon trees are propagated from seeds or cuttings. The trees take about 7 years to mature and start producing cinnamon bark. Cinnamon bark is the dried inner bark of the cinnamon tree
One key difference between Kerala cinnamon and Ceylon cinnamon is the thickness of the bark. Kerala cinnamon has a thicker bark than Ceylon cinnamon, which makes it more robust in flavour. This also makes it ideal for use in dishes that require a strong and distinct cinnamon flavour.
Kerala cinnamon is a versatile spice that can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes.
In Indian desserts: Cinnamon is a popular spice used in many Indian desserts, including rice pudding, kheer, and gulab jamun.
In tea and coffee: A pinch of cinnamon can add a warm and spicy flavour to tea and coffee. It is also believed to have numerous health benefits.
In curries and stews: Cinnamon is often used in Indian curries and stews, especially those made with lamb, chicken, or vegetables. It adds a warm and aromatic flavour to the dish.
In biryanis and pulao: Cinnamon is a key ingredient in many Indian rice dishes, including biryanis and pulao. It adds a subtle sweetness and warmth to the rice.
In spice blends: Cinnamon is an essential ingredient in many Indian spice blends, including garam masala and chai masala. These spice blends are used in a wide range of Indian dishes and are an important part of Indian cuisine.
It pairs well with other spices like cardamom, cloves, and nutmeg to create a complex and delicious flavour profile.
Apart from its culinary uses, cinnamon is also known for its health benefits. It is believed to help regulate blood sugar levels and improve heart health. It is also used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of conditions, including nausea, vomiting, and respiratory problems.