Idukki, the hill district of Kerala is one of the prime centres of Cardamom, pepper and coffee cultivation in Kerala. Cardamom, referred to as the queen of spices was a wild plant here until the farmers recognized it as a prime cash crop. when you drive from Munnar to Thekkady after thirty Kilometers form Munnar, you can see cardamom plantations on both sides of the road during most parts of the journey.
A century back, Idukki was dense forest, home to wild cats and elephants. Being part of the Western Ghats the district had a cooler climate throughout the year. The River Periyar in Kerala originates form Idukki and relatively water was abundant. When the population of the downhill districts of Kerala, namely Kottayam, Ernakulam and Alleppey were increasing and since there was no ample land for farming, people form these districts started to got into the forests of the Western Ghats. They cleared up the forests and made way for farming tapioca, Jack fruits, paddy and much more. During these periods cardamom was still considered to be a wild plant and were just considered for household purposes. Later when the potential of cardamom was recognized, the planters and farmers started to plant Cardamom in a large scale. The weather of Idukki, more towards Thekkady is ideal for Cardamom plantation. Areas of Munnar is more cooler and the British already introduced Tea plantations and Tea Estates grew rapidly in Munnar. Cardamom became a wonder crop and brought in large incomes for the planters and farmers of Idukki. Cardamom also became a savior for the Farmers of Idukki during when pepper crops underwent a fungal attack which led to mass destruction of the pepper crop and plant..read how cardamom became a saviour to the planters of Idukki. Apart from Cardamom and Pepper, coffee is a also widely cultivated in Idukki.
Since ancient days Kerala has been a production center of Pepper, Vasco Da Gama the Portuguese sailor was attracted to Malabar for its pepper. He referred pepper as black gold. Pepper was also planted and cultivated in large scale here, the cardamom and pepper from Idukki are of top quality in the international market. Pepper from Kerala has a nick name in the International Market – It is called The Malabar Gold. Cardamom and pepper cultivation happen together, cardamom requires more area and pepper being a creeper is grown on trees within cardamom plantations. Almost everybody in Idukki own a cardamom and pepper plantation, some in few acres, others might extend to large estates. Cardamom requires a lot of care and protection for better yielding, more the care given to each plant more is the yield harvested.
Pepper is generally harvested, it turns black when sun dried and is sent to the market for auctioning and for export from there. Cardamom on the other hand is dried with machines in a cardamom store. It gets a ting of yellow and vertical marks when dried, and is stored in a cardamom store until the stock is taken for auctioning. The spices board is the prime helping hand for the planters of Idukki. Spices board is a Government body that helps and supports the planters of Idukki in a big way with advises and financial subsidies.
One of the most important reasons why most people are attracted to Thekkady is to see the spice plantations here. Another reason is the Periyar National park which is located at Thekkady. Lot of people do a spice plantations tour to learn and understand how these spices are cultivated, harvested and how these products reach the supermarket shelves close to our home. This is an interesting program as this could not be seen anywhere else apart from Kerala.
If you are interested in a spices trail or a spices tour of Kerala, please be in touch. You can send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or post a query at tripdayz.com
Written by Benjamin John