Whoever has coined that phrase “God’s own country” must have experienced a bit of heaven on earth. The place that I am talking about is Kerala, a picturesque and lush green state in southern India.
Whether traveling by road or train, you can feel the change in the clean air that you breath as you enter Kerala. The stunning visual impact of the greenery hits you as soon as you cross the border, not surprising, that no visit to India is complete without a trip to Kerala, both for the international and the domestic traveler.
Had been to Palai (one of the southern districts in Kerala) and was really charmed by the calm and quiet atmosphere. Stayed at a relative’s place (lets call him Benny ) and they had this stream flowing right in front of their house.
They say that this stream called Meenachil never dries up and during the monsoons it is full and gushing. The water is so cool and clear and a dip in it is just what one needs to relax for the day (I was in the water for half an hour and wanted to spend more time there). The sound of the gushing water is pretty loud and the people living near the stream tend to speak in a loud voice to be heard.
Benny is into cultivation and he has practically everything in his back yard. He showed me this Vanilla creeper and said that they start flowering only after three years of planting. He explained how he does the pollination himself as the bees that are supposed to do the pollination does not survive in India. (Natural pollination of Vanilla by the bees happen only in Mexico).
Kappa (Tapioca) is another item that does not need much maintenance. A root starch, you have to just plant it and forget it. When it is about six to ten feet tall, you uproot it and the yield is anything between ten to fifteen kilos of Tapioca. After keeping aside a little for household use, Benny sells the rest in the market.
Pepper is a spice that grows wild in these areas. Just a little care in the initial years. Like the Vanilla, pepper too start bearing fruits after four or five years. Benny told me that the trick is to start plucking when one or two fruits at the bottom of the bunch starts turning red. (Yes pepper is a fruit). He says that if it is allowed to mature on the plant , it looses its pungency and ultimately fetch less price in the market.
While Benny was showing us around his younger brother got some fresh toddy. Even though I am a teetotaler, I had to taste this and must say that it was not at all intoxicating. Probably because it was tapped fresh . (I had a hearty laugh when I saw the glass in which he served the toddy)
Toddy is also an important ingredient added to some of the steamed sweet dishes that is served in Kerala. There were some string hoppers and Appam that were served on banana leaf, and I enjoyed the complete hospitality of Benny and his family.