Kerala history is closely linked with its commerce, which in turn was wholly dependant until recent times on its spice trade. Kerala was known for its spices and traders travelled here to trade and to gain control over this rich land. It is believed that the spice trade dates back to three thousand years. Pepper still remains the king of Kerala's spices, but the state also rich in Cardamom, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger and Turmeric. As in the past , the state continues to be the spice capital of the world. Over twelve varieties of spices including Ginger, Garlic, Cardamom, Vannilla, Pepper, Cinnamon, Coffee, Tea, Clove and Nutmeg is cultivated in Munnar and its neighbouring villages.
Scientific name : Vanilla fragrans
Rainfall required : 1500 -3000 mm
Propagation : Shoot cutting. Pollination : Artificial. The rostellum of the flower is pushed back with a pointed bamboo splinter and the overhanging anther is pressed against the stigma with the thumb, thus smearing pollen over it.The ideal time for pollination is 0600 to 1300 hrs.
A tropical orchid, this requires a warm climate with frequent rains. Vanilla grows best in uncleared jungle areas where it can get filtered sunlight. A creeper, the plant requires support up to height of about 135 cm. The plant usually begins to flower by the third year. The bean takes 10 to 12 months to reach full maturity.
Scientific name : Piper nigrum
Temperature : Tolerance -10° C to 40° C. (Optimum -20°C to 30°C)
Rainfall required : 2500 mm.
Propagation : Stem cutting.Important varieties: Panniyur -1, Karimunda, Kuthiravally, Arakkulam Munda, Balankotta and Kalluvally. The pepper plant grows best in a warm and humid climate. Berries mature and are ready for harvest in about 180 to 200 days.
Black pepper is produced by sundrying the mature pepper berries for 3 - 5 days after they are separated from the spikes by threshing and white pepper by retting mature berries in clean water for 5 - 7 days, removing the outer skin and drying the seed after thorough washing.
Scientific name: Elletteria cardamomum
Best altitude for cultivation : 1500 Mts above sea-level.
Temperature : 10°C - 25°C.
Rainfall required : 1500 mm.
Propagation : Seedlings and vegetative propagation.
Pollinating agent : The honey bee.
Harvest season : October to February. A cardamom plant normally starts bearing capsules from the third year of planting.
The harvested capsules are rubbed on wire mesh and polished before they are graded and stored in polythene-gunny bags to retain the green colour and to avoid exposure to moisture.