On Saturday I put the spice back into Spice Island by taking a tour of one of the island’s many spice farms. Spices on Zanzibar have a long history. The queen of spices, clove, was introduced to Zanzibar in the 1820s and by the middle of the century, other spices like cinnamon, cumin, ginger and cardamom were growing there as well. Zanzibar is called the spice island because of the rich spicy aroma in the air. You can actually smell the spices when you are around the farms.
So, is everyone ready to play a guessing game? Name the spices below:
It was really interesting to see all these spices growing. I can honestly say I have each and everyone of these spices at home though some I use more than others. I learned all sorts of interesting things about the spices like Vanilla was brought over from Mexico and the plants are hand pollinated because the butterflies that naturally pollinates vanilla only live in Mexico. Nutmeg is used as drug but only for women. They are boiled and the water is consumed by women during parties and particularly on their wedding night. The guide was trying to be polite but essentially he was trying to tell us that it makes women a little “loose.”
Some of the spices were so strong that you could identify them from a few feet away. Others were a mystery.
The annato (I’ve mentioned it before), is used in Zanzibar for food coloring and can be used as paint or make-up as my friend here is demonstrating. Besides spices, we was saw some interesting fruit trees.
How about Rambutan? I love these little spiny devils. Yum!
After the hour long tour, we were taken to a makeshift spice market where the farmers sell their spices. I wasn’t sure I would be able to bring the spices through customs so I decided to buy a small amount just incase. I stocked up on the masala blends, cinnamon, clove, turmeric and vanilla. The vanilla was dirt cheap. I got 24 pods for $5. I totally got through customs fine and am kicking myself for not buying more.
After the spice tour, we had a traditional lunch that featured spices we saw on the spice tour. The food was DELICIOUS. Pilaf with cinnamon and clove, spinach with nutmeg and mix vegetables with a little bit of everything.
Once we were full and barely able to move, we were loaded into vans and headed to the beach and slave caves. Zanzibar has a sad slave history. It was the main exporter of slaves to the Middle East. People from all over East and West Africa were brought to Zanzibar and sold. After the British abolished slavery, one trader, Tippu Tip, continued selling slaves but did it in secret. He would hide the slaves in caves until it was safe and then put them on ships headed Arabian peninsula. I went to the slave caves for Micah. He wanted pictures to show his students.
The pictures weren’t great but probably captures the dark, scary and sad cave better than any clear pictures.
All I could think about was getting out of there. It was hot and creepy and filled with spiders and centipedes.
As soon as the Slave talk was over, I literally ran out of the cave to the beach a kilometer away. We were given some free time to relax and swim. I opted not to swim this day. The beach was near a traditional fishing village and it seemed wrong to go swimming in my bathing suit when all the village women wear covered from hear to toe. The swimmers definitely got some looks from the fishermen and boys. I enjoyed the view and warm water despite not swimming.
It was a little muggy that day. But the water was warm and the beach was beautiful.
Once we were back in town, I again took a power nap followed by a trip to the night market again for dinner. This time I watched were the locals ate and followed a group of ladies to a man with a grill.
I ended up with the special which was a plate of chips (fries) with grilled chicken and radish green salad on top covered with a spicy ketchup. Again, I was skeptical, mostly about the ketchup-salad combo, but this was a SUPER YUMMY plate of food that only set me back $2. The chicken was tender and grilled perfectly.
Later I washed it down with a key lime/calamansi – sugarcane drink. AMAZING. I could have drank a gallon of this stuff.
They sugarcane is put through something that looks like a pasta maker on steroids. The sugarcane liquid is collected and mixed with the lime juice.
All in all, Saturday was a pretty good day. Lovely aromas, beautiful scenery and delicious food in my belly.
I’ll leave you with this last picture of the beach while you contemplate the spices pictured at the beginning of the post. The answers are coming tomorrow.