A fine layer…
Day 98/138 2022/2023 Viking Neptune World Cruise. Goa, India
We had a really relaxing morning after arriving in Goa, since our tour to The Spice Farm was not leaving until 10:45am today.
Mormugao Port in Goa on India’s West coast. In the background is a major coal importing facility with a conveyor to move the coal into the terminal.
The other view from our balcony this morning in Goa. A bit hazy, but we knew it would be nicer where we were heading.
We had agreed to meet up with Gene and Margaret before going to the Star Theatre so that we could travel on the same bus today, since they were also going to the Spice Plantation. After we were called to go to our waiting bus, we had to walk through the Goa Cruise terminal and see an immigration person. We had to show our Indian tourist card and we were also asked to put one finger or thumb, in Richard’s case, on the screen to be read. The Indian tourist card was stamped with the stamp from Goa, and we were then able to proceed onto our waiting bus number number 30.
We had a lovely female guide today. She has been doing guide work for over 40 years and she really was a hoot. She told us that before we could leave the port area, immigration would come on the bus for an inspection, so get our Indian tourist card papers out and wave them in the air when the inspector comes on the bus. So that is what we did, and the inspector quickly turned around and walked off the bus. Our guide then said “Dumb regulations!” She said that India is ”Backwards with all of their dumb regulations, but everyone must follow them if they want tourists.”
Our guide showed us a map of the State of Goa and right off told us that Goa was not an Island. For some reason I always had it in my head that Goa was an Island. Anyway, I always wondered what makes Goa so hip? So different from the rest of India? Goa has 63 miles or 100 km of coastline along the Arabian Sea, but beyond the lush landscape, ancient temples and hilly farmlands, Goa was heavily influenced by the Portuguese who ruled Goa for over 450 years, and their lingering influence make Goa so different from the rest of India which was ruled by the British until 1947. Goans have a very high per-capita income and much of the population is highly educated compared to other parts of the country. Goa is a major tourist destination with visitors from all over the globe flocking to the state. Goa is also a very cosmopolitan, tolerant State with a liberal outlook, again because of its history. Goa is also famous for its home-grown spices like tamarind, mustard, nutmeg, chilli, pepper, cardamom and curry leaves. The Portuguese also
introduced cashews to Goa and cashew nuts are a key ingredient in Goan food and drink. And that leads us right into our tour today and why we wanted to visit a Goan Spice Farm!
The optional excursion we were on today started with a 1.5 hour bus ride to the ‘Tropical Spice Plantation’ which is located in Keri (Ponda) a village untouched by pollution. The scenery on the way to the Plantation was very interesting. The roads were so narrow and bumpy and every time our bus driver wanted to make sure he had the right of way, he would just honk the horn to make sure the other person knew he was going to go ahead of them.
We passed through a number of small towns and villages on the way to the Spice Plantation and though the roads were quite twisty in some spots, I was ok with the long bus ride because there was always something interesting to see outside the bus window.
The thing that seemed to be consistent about Goa was the fine layer of red dust on everything. The soil in Goa is clay red and of course the red dust was everywhere we looked.
And what else would be walking on that red clay but cows! They were everywhere too, since cows are sacred in India. This cow is a Braham cow and the hump tissue actually stores water and that is why Braham cows can survive in the hot, arid conditions of India.
We finally arrived at the Spice Plantation after 1.5 hours of driving. Our tour guide made sure we all stayed together for the walk down the uneven steps to the bridge that would take us across the seasonal rice paddy, to the Spice Plantation.
The entrance to the Spice Plantation was strewn with marigolds which are offered to the HIndu gods and godesses representing the sun, brightness and positivity.
Walking across the bridge to the Spice Plantation, the river bed was pretty dried up. When Monsoon season hits Goa from June - September, this river bed will be a rice paddy.
Our guide had warned us that we would be greeted at the Spice Plantation with a traditional blessing of marigold leaves.
Getting blessed with crushed marigold flowers. Good, quick photography skills by
Richard to capture this experience!
Of course everyone needed the restrooms after a long bus ride and the Spice Plantation had very clean toilets which made everyone very happy!
After visiting the toilets, we were served a glass of mangosteen juice and some snacks before we went on our tour of the Spice Plantation.
The round wheels were made out of chickpea flour and were gluten free. The squares were some kind of cheese biscuit. Both of these snacks were very tasty and the snacks were served on the betel nut tree leaves which the plantation grows and then dries. How very environmental!
Margaret with the remnants of the marigolds in her hair having a snack!
After a brief time having our snack we were instructed as Group 30, to follow a new guide from the Spice Plantation, who would bring us around the demonstration area of the Spice Plantation. The Spice Plantation is operated by a 5th generation family and offers tourists the chance to enjoy the demonstration area as well as stay for a traditional lunch, which is included in the cost of the entrance fee.
Our guide started our tour by showing us the cashew nut and how it grows attached to a fruit.
Cashew nuts at the bottom of cashew apples. The cashews cannot be eaten raw, but must be roasted to be edible.
The cashew apples are used to make a traditional Goan liquor called ‘Feni’. Feni gets it name from the word ‘PHENA’ which means ‘froth’, thought to come from the bubbles that form when the liquor is shaken inside a bottle or poured in a glass.
A traditional Feni still used to heat up the cashew apple juice which is fermented, then boiled and distilled from the larger clay pot into the smaller clay pot which catches the steam. Feni is typically double distilled. Feni is typically 43-45% alcohol content. Cashew feni is seasonal and distilled only from late February to mid May. Feni can be served neat, on ice, mixed with fruit juices or served with a slice of lime and sugar syrup. Feni is also used as a marinade for pork, and is often the base for Vindaloo curry.
After seeing the Feni distilling process we started to walk down the lush pathway to see what else was growing at the Spice Plantation.
’False bird of paradise’ plants. What gorgeous colour these plants have!
Heliconia is a beautiful plant otherwise known as Lobster claws.
Strelitziaceae otherwise known as Bird of Paradise.
Hibiscus flower growing wild at the Spice Plantation.
The first spice we saw growing at the Spice Plantation was very small, but packed a big punch!
Peri-peri or piri-piri is made from the malagueta pepper. Originally produced by Portuguese explorers in South Africa, and Goa. The piri-piri sauce is typically made up of these chilies with garlic, and oil. Portuguese cooking typically has the piri-piri pepper in the recipe.
Curcuma longa or the plant that is dried to make turmeric! Tumeric thrives in dry red, clay soil such as that in Goa. A shade loving plant, ready for harvesting in seven to nine months. Rhizomes are cleaned of mud and the turmeric must be cured before marketing it by boiling the rhizomes in water and drying from 40-60 minutes in the sun. Turmeric is promoted as a supplement for arthritis, digestive disorders, respiratory infections, allergies, liver disease, depression and many others. Turmeric is also a major ingredient in curry powder and is considered ‘the poor man’s saffron’. Some think that turmeric improves heart health and prevents Alzheimer’s and cancer because of its antioxidant properties. Taken with meals will help increase absorption and if a pinch of black pepper is taken with turmeric it helps with absorption.
A curry leaf which are harvested from the curry tree and are used in Indian cooking. Also dry roasted and then ground into curry powder. Fresh curry leaves have more flavour than dried leaves and that is why the fresh leaves are often added to vegetable and meat dishes, coconut sauces, relishes, and marinades.
Green coffee bean!
Red peppercorns! The piper nigrum or peppercorn plant or black pepper plant is very interesting. Black, white, green and red peppercorns are all the same peppercorn! The peppercorns start as green, then blush and turn red and finally they will grow black after they are picked and left to dry. White peppercorns are the inner portion of mature dried fruits. Black pepper is left to soak in water for days at a time and then the outer husk is peeled away to reveal white pepper. Green peppercorns are immature fruits that taste more earth and citrusy when left to mature. They can be harvested immaturely, dried and also produce green pepper. Pink peppercorns come from the Peruvian pepper tree, which is not the same as the Piper Nigrum. After harvesting, whatever stage the peppercorns are at, they must be quickly blanched in boiling water to clean the exterior before drying. Once fully dried they can be stored. Whole peppercorns retain their flavour the longest so grinding pepper should be reserved just before using it.
We also saw cardamom pods growing and ginger and various other native plants to Goa, before walking back to the open air dining area to have a buffet lunch.
Our local Goan food, lunch buffet! There were two buffet lines. One for traditional ‘spicy’ Goan food and one for North American tastes. We did not know that the two buffet lines were different, so we went with the North American buffet l
Traditional Goan food served on a betel leaf plate which was biodegradable. The food was delicious, but quite spicy. I think the ‘North American’ buffet line was probably as spicy as the traditional line of food.
Cashew nut Feni. I had a brief taste of this alcohol, but it seemed very fiery and after the hot Goan food, I was not interested in drinking it!
Of course what would a Spice Plantation be without the opportunity to purchase some locally grown spices?
Spice Plantation spices and remedies.
I purchased these spices and potions at the spice market today. $35USD. Saffron was only $4.50 for the container. I probably should have bought more saffron but I’m sure we will have more chances in Mumbai to buy saffron. The Heena Oil I purchased is for pain relief and is made of natural ingredients such as Eucalyptus, Cinnamon, Clove, Menthol and essential oil. Some of the other essential oils I purchased were lemongrass, almond oil, neem oil and tulsi oil. The guide we had today said that we could pick up a list of what oils to use for various ailments, so I asked at the Spice Plantation gift store and they provided me with the following:
Many different recipes for the uses of the essential oils from the Spice Plantation.
Our time at the Spice Plantation was a very good use of our time today.
We all learned a lot and really enjoyed today’s optional excursion. I was glad we had some small denominations of USD with us today because we have not yet seen an ATM machine in the two days we have been in India, and the Spice Plantation only took USD or Indian rupees.
We had a 1.5 hour bus ride back to the Neptune along the same route we had taken this morning. Getting back to the port at 4pm left us with no time to go out into the rest of Goa and try to find some shopping at some of the local markets we had passed along on way. The back on board time for today was 5pm, so after quick showers, it was time to watch our sail away from Goa.
Bye Bye Goa. While we enjoyed our time, it was too short to really get a sense of what Goa was all about, other than spices!
Tomorrow we arrive in Mumbai at noon and will have an afternoon tour, so I am not sure if I will have time to write a blog tomorrow evening. We also hope to find a local market after our tour since we really do need to do some shopping in India!