My trip to Goa a few months back was packed with so many different culinary adventures, and one of my favorite experiences was visiting a 200-year-old, organic, spice plantation called Savoi. The farm was about an hour outside North Goa in an area called Ponda, and I ended up making that trek TWICE. I was rained out the first time (of course, the rain started when I was five minutes away) and walking the grounds in mud was not an option (why did I wear flip-flops?).
The first time, I ended up staying for lunch inside the tree house-like pergola. After a greeting of cool kokum juice and some biscuits, a feast ensued! Deliciously-stuffed, fried pomfret, fried shrimp, fresh salads and pickles, lentils, spicy crab, sour plum masala, finishing with cool, vermicelli pudding, and cucumber cake. The experience was pretty magical – watching the rain pelt down in the middle of lush, misty forest, in India and stuffed silly. Amazing.
The plantation has crops like coconuts, pineapple, jackfruit, and betel nut along with intercrop spices – black pepper, clove, cardamom, curry leaf, turmeric, and vanilla bean to name a few. Walking around the plantation, you learn where all the spices originally come from, how they are grown, and medicinal qualities to the different plants.
Betel nuts, by the way, are the seeds of a type of palm and are widely chewed (wrapped in betel leaves) because they’re a stimulant. The telltale sign that someone is chewing is a blood red-stained mouth. Check out how dangerous betel nut picking is!
Although there are a few other spice plantations nearby, many (shadily) offer commissions to taxi drivers, which Savoi doesn’t do. There is a pretty cool temple 15 to 20 minutes away called Mangueshi Temple – a great day would be driving out to see this temple in the morning, followed by lunch and walking the grounds of Savoi, and then heading back to North Goa to hit the beach for the afternoon…