Spice gardens in Sri Lanka are places where people grow almost all the spices in one place. If you are a traveler in Sri Lanka, you might have heard of the close link between spices and Sri Lankan food. You can find several spices included in every Sri Lankan dish making it really delicious and healthy.
Would you believe if I say that Sri Lanka was renowned for a place of best spices in the world even in 2000BC?
Well, archeologists have found Sri Lankan Cinnamon in Egypt aging back to 2000BC. That is when Pharaohs were ruling Egypt. They have been using Sri Lankan cinnamon for mummification. Even at that time, Sri Lanka has been exporting spices to the world. Even now, Sri Lanka supplies over 90% of the world’s Cinnamon demand because Sri Lanka has got the best Cinnamon in the world. It is endemic to Sri Lanka.
It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?
Similarly, Sri Lanka has many other spices such as pepper, cardamom, cloves, etc. Sri Lankan farmers grow spices for local and international consumption. Therefore, food-loving tourists all over the world come to Sri Lanka to taste the kick of Sri Lankan spices and also to explore the secrets behind Sri Lankan recipes, their spices, and food. There are more than 40 spice gardens all over Sri Lanka. The main focus of such garden keepers is to promote Sri Lankan spices to tourists and sell their value-added products.
With the development of tourism in Sri Lanka, the number of spice gardens in the country grew in leaps and bounds.
Now there are around 40 spice gardens all over the country.
Although the number of spice gardens grew, it seems that they have declined in terms of customer satisfaction. Most of the tourists are complaining that there is no value for the money they spend on buying different types of products made out of spices from the spice gardens in Sri Lanka. Some of them complain that they even got scammed in the spice gardens.
To get rid of these scams, I am going to give you a basic idea of what to look for in the spice gardens in Sri Lanka. I am going to give you some simple tips to identify a scam and to get rid of such scams. If you think you want to know more about spice gardens, what they do, how do they scam, how to be on the safe side without getting caught, continue reading till the end…
In order to get rid of scams and frauds, you need to have a sound knowledge of Sri Lankan Spices. Therefore, I am going to tell you a few facts about Sri Lankan spices.
Sri Lankan Spices?
In order to get rid of scams and frauds, you need to have a good knowledge of Sri Lankan Spices. Therefore, I am going to tell you a few facts about Sri Lankan spices. I already told you that the Sri Lankan market is famous for its spices for a very long time. Sri Lanka is home to more than 15 different types of spices. They are currently in the international market as well. You can find “true cinnamon” only in Sri Lanka. There is a product called “Cassia” in countries like Java. It is somewhat like cinnamon but not true cinnamon.
Spices are useful in many different ways. Sri Lankans use spices in food to enhance the color, fragrance and add an extra kick to the flavor of the food. But you should use it in the right combinations (right mix). Using the right mix, any simple food can be converted into a really delicious one. However, if you do not use the right mix, it can make the food taste terrible. At the same time, Sri Lanka is using spices to prepare several value-added products in the market as well. For instance, preparing cinnamon oil, food preservation agents, scent, cinnamon tea, etc. Likewise, there are other products. All these spices found in Sri Lanka have their own health benefits. I will post below some of the health benefits of commonly used spices in Sri Lanka for your knowledge.
Historical facts about Sri Lankan Spices
- Sri Lanka was known as Tabrobane, Serendib, and Ceylon in ancient times by other countries.
- In very ancient times (2000BC) Sri Lanka has maintained trade relationships with Greeks, Nile civilizations, Romans and Arabs
- In ancient times, Sri Lanka exported a lot of spices and ivory. Carbon dating tests from different archeological sources confirm it.
- Spices and ivory were two major reasons why Portuguese, Dutch, and British conquered Sri Lanka.
- Tropical Sri Lankan climate and its microclimates specific to different regions in Sri Lanka make it ideal for spice growth. Most of the spices are endemic to Sri Lanka.
Why are Sri Lankan spices so popular all over the world?
Sri Lankan spices are popular for two reasons.
- One reason is the taste that it adds to Sri Lankan food making them unique and delicious.
- The second thing is the unique medicinal value that the spices have. Most of the food items nowadays do not carry much medicinal value.
Here are some common spices along with the health benefits from them
Curry Leaves (Karapincha – local name)
- Curry leaves are an ingredient which significantly used in Sri Lanka. Although the taste of curry leaves is not very significant, its subtle flavor and the smell doesn’t go undetected. Curry leaves are used quite often in most of the curries in Sri Lankan cuisine.
- Curry leaves help to fight diabetes, improves digestion, lowers cholesterol, prevent grey hair and prevent anemia.
Turmeric – (Kaha)
- Turmeric is a yellow color powder. Tumeric gives medicinal value rather than mere taste. Tumeric is also very important in preparing Sri Lankan dishes.
- Turmeric reduces pain. It contains a lot of anti-inflammatory properties and it cures inflammation and stiffness due to arthritis and Osteoarthritis. Also used as a cleansing agent for the digestive system. It also relieves pain and improves liver function as well.
- Cloves are flowers of the evergreen clove tree. It gives the aromatic taste to ginger and pumpkin pies. Once crushed, it gives a very strong odor and minty sweet taste.
- Cloves also contain anti-inflammatory properties. Cloves contain anti-oxidants helping to age less. This is good medicine that can be used to prevent cancer occurring. It kills off unwanted bacteria, improves liver health and helps to regulate the blood sugar preventing diabetes. Further, it cures stomach ulcers and promotes bone health.
Cinnamon (kurundu) – “True Cinnamon”
- You know a little bit about cinnamon now already. I shared with you information about our ancestors using cinnamon for different purposes. In addition to that, cinnamon has been a reason even for the world’s most significant voyages like Christopher Colombus, Vasco de Gama, and Ibn Batuta.
- Cinnamon is a plant having a unique identity due to its quality, color, aroma, and flavor. It is the most valuable spice produced in Sri Lanka. Cinnamon is used as a food preservation agent along with pepper. The very unique aroma and flavor help to make very distinctive Sri Lankan food and beverages. Now there are quite a lot of value-added products like cinnamon oil, cinnamon powder, and tablets, etc.
- There are a large number of health benefits of cinnamon. For starters, cinnamon contains a lot of antioxidants and it has anti-inflammatory properties. Reduces the risk of heart disease, improves the sensitivity to the hormone called insulin, lowers blood sugar level, positively effect on neurodegenerative diseases, protects against cancer, helps fight bacterial and fungal infections an also it has the power to fight even against deadly diseases such as HIV virus.
Pepper (Gam miris)
- Pepper is the “king” of spices. Sometimes, you might have tasted it today for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It is very popular due to its signature flavor.
- But people don’t know about the health benefits of using pepper in their day to day meal. I am going to show you some benefits that you get even though you add pepper merely as an agent that makes the food taste better. Like the other spices, pepper also has a lot of anti-oxidants in it and at the same time, it also contains anti-inflammatory properties which is very beneficial. It also helps make the brain function better. It lowers the blood sugar levels and also fights against cancer cells in a body.
Likewise, there are many other spices in Sri Lanka like;
- Cardamom (enasal)
- Lemongrass (sera)
- Nutmeg and Mace (Sadikka and wasawasi)
- Ginger (Inguru)
Therefore, if you had any doubts about it, you can clear your doubts right now. Spices are a major part of Sri Lankan food culture and Sri Lankan spices have their own unmatched medicinal value. Sri Lanka is a country renowned for its spices, use of spices in food and food culture that is bound by the usage of spices. It is true.
Then why do people complain about “Spice Gardens” in Sri Lanka? Is it a scam?
There are around 40 spice gardens registered and licensed with the Ceylon Tourist Board. These are located in different places on the island. Here is a list of some of the spice gardens in Sri Lanka.
- Susantha Spice Garden, Hingula.
- Sirilak Spice Garden, Matale
- Lucky land Spice Garden, Matale.
- Diamond, Matale.
- Luckgrove Spice Garden, Matale.
- Villa Herbarium, Hingula.
- Cinnamon Tree Spice Garden, Mawanella.
- Nilwala Spice Garden, Randeniya.
- Country Side Spice Garden, Nalanda.
- All Spice Garden, Rambukkana.
And YES! it is a scam.
But not in all the Spice gardens in the country. Only in a selected few. I’ll show you how tourists get scammed in a few of those places.
Tourists complain about the spice gardens in Sri Lanka not just for one or two reasons. There are a series of offenses these people do when tourists visit those places but they are not acted upon by the regulatory bodies making it worse. I will give you where and when the tourists get scammed clearly. But I think you shouldn’t miss visiting the spice garden since it is a university for spice lovers all over the world. The only thing is you need to know how to get rid of the scams. I will show you 5 such scams and how to get rid of such scams one by one.
Making payments using cards is one of the risks that the tourists take when they travel to spice gardens in Sri Lanka. There were few reported incidents where tourists have bought the worth of a good of a few euros and they have charged a large amount of money (a few hundred euros) instead of the correct price of the goods. There has not been any reversal of the charge as well. At these times, the tourists become helpless.
Therefore, it is best to avoid any card payments. Do not give your credit or debit card information to anyone in the spice gardens in Sri Lanka.
Check reviews before you visit spice gardens in Sri Lanka
Another complaint that most of the tourists make is that they are taken to these places called spice gardens without any prior notice. The trip managers suddenly ask from the people who are touring with them whether they want to go to spice gardens. They give a fascinating introduction about these spice gardens and somehow get the tourists’ approval to visit this place.
To avoid this, clearly get to know about the trip plan. Sometimes you might now be that much of spice lover. In that case, if you are not willing to go to spice gardens in Sri Lanka, be straight forward and tell them that you do not want to.
If you want to go to spice gardens, get to know the place that you are going to visit and check the reviews from “trip advisor”. Check the comments and reviews of different people who have visited the place before you.
Do not let them massage you
After visiting the spice gardens in Sri Lanka, they will take you through a tour around the garden explaining about the spices. Actually, that is very useful if you are interested about the spices that are grown in Sri Lanka. But at the end of the tour, they will introduce you to some of their products and ointments. That is when the tour converts into a sales pitch. To test some of the ointments then and there, they will ask you whether you need a massage. And if you say yes, they will first massage your shoulders and the head. Then they will tell you to lay down on the bench and start massaging your whole body in front of all the others. They will even try to massage your private areas without asking you. It becomes a show to rest of the people who are starring at you.
Avoid high-cost ointments
After the garden tour, in their sales pitch about the products that are made using spices, they will try to sell you some of their products which costs an arm or a leg. Avoid such high-cost products. If you want to buy, one tactic you can follow is that you can check the prices online. Maybe in amazon or eBay and see the prices at which it is sold in the international market. Then bargain as much as you can try to reduce the price to the least amount, they are willing to give you.
Avoid people with Sob stories
Some of the tourists have complained that after the tour in the spice garden, some people working there come with sob stories about their family and children and ask for money from the tourists. This is another scam you should get rid of. If you think you want to give, please do but it’s all your decision.
SLNOTES also has an article about Sri Lankan Tuk Tuks as well. You can read it here…