A Travellerspoint blog

Spicing things up

1st November 2010

I hope the locals’ predictions for a peaceful outcome of the elections are better than their predictions for the weather: It’s pelting down with rain. If we go out now, we can save the shower!

Just before breakfast, it briefly clears up and a rainbow arches over the sea, but soon it starts raining again.

We decide to do the spice tour anyway, if need be with umbrellas.

Our guide is really entertaining, and I learn a lot about different spices and plants. (He is giving us points for every right answer, so if he is reading this, I am hopefully getting lots of points here!)

1) Henna: creates 4 colours, depending on the number of coats used (1 coat yellow, 2 coats red, 3 coats brown, 4 coats black)

2) Pepper: green pepper turns into red pepper with further ripening; black pepper is dried green or red pepper and white pepper is red pepper where the skin has been removed (takes 3 days of soaking)

3) Most expensive spices: a. Saffron; b.Vanilla (takes 10 years to mature); c. Green cardamom (the beautiful pink and white flowers that contain the seedpod are very sensitive. Too much sun or wind and they fall off prematurely)

4) Clove: Cash crop for the Tanzanian government. Some farmers try to smuggle cloves from Pemba, the smaller island that is part of Zanzibar, to Kenya, but the only way to export cloves legitimately is via us tourists...

5) Tumeric: poor people’s saffron – also good for rich people with poor memories

6) Lipstick fruit: “portable” orange lipsticks that look good on Indian ladies, but clash with the pink undertones of white skin (so no, I haven't brought any home as souvenirs)

7) Cinnamon: The root is as useful as the bark, as it provides menthol for Tigerbalm. Even the leaves have an attractive spicy smell, but aren’t used. (It's here that I lose brownie points with the guide because when I first smell the leaves I say "cinnamon", but am then swayed by all the fellow travellers who find that the leaves smell of "clove". The guide says he will now subtract points from my account because I haven't stuck to my guns.)

8) Nutmeg: Mace is the red “plastic” wrapper around the nut

While we are walking around, first without then with huge umbrellas, a local lad makes accessories out of palm leaves. The gentlemen get a tie and hat, we ladies get a handbag (sturdy enough to carry a 500ml water bottle), frog necklace and hat.

We are also invited to taste green coconut fresh from the tree. The coconut climber makes a big show of the harvest, wiggling down the tree singing “Kakuna matata”...

In the meantime, one of the ladies in the village has prepared a delicious lunch. The Pilau rice is spiced with just the right amount of pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander and cumin (someone also spotted star anis in the mix).

The rice is served with a bright green curry sauce. The sauce is very filling, so my guess is that the base for the sauce is coconut. I don’t really need the fried fish.

The desert consists of tasting all kinds of fruit. We start off with yellow cucumbers, which are crunchy and firm like organic green cucumbers, followed by bitter-sweet Marmelade oranges, pomegranates, green oranges (even in their unripe state they are sweeter than some ripe oranges we can get at home), pawpaw (my favourite) and jackfruit (quite nice taste, but strange chewy texture), and finger bananas (which have a hint of apple).

Anybody who knows what a fruit fanatic I am, will realise that I am in heaven. Who cares that it is pouring down with rain outside our shelter?

Posted by TTraveller 07:34 Archived in Tanzania

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