High-income commercial crops are widely cultivated in the Highranges, where the terrain, soil and climate are ideal for such cultivation. Large tracts of hill-slopes are covered with tea gardens, cardamom plantations, pepper vines, coffee cultivation, etc. Of these, cardamom, coffee and pepper are cultivated inside the resort property itself, and tea and other plantations can be visited in the neighbourhood.
The dried mature fruit of cardamom (Elettaria Cardamomum) is the most popular spice in the world. Its oil is used for flavouring foods and beverages and in perfumes. The warm and slightly pungent aroma of cardamom is appetising and pleasing in almost all food and bakery items. It is also a costly spice as the demand for it is ever on the increase, while the production is fluctuating and is limited to very little area in India and Guatemala and few other countries in a still smaller scale.
Cardamom is a herbaceous perennial plant having subterranean rhizomatous stem with tall (around 5ft.) pseudostem formed by leaf sheaths. The plant has characteristic fibrous root system of monocots and it is very shallow in nature. Leaves are petiolate, distichous, linear and lanceolate. Flowers are bisexual, self fertile, zygomorphic, 4-5 cm long and 2 cm across. Individual flowers are large, attractive and exhibiting all characteristics required for entamophilous pollination consisting of the tabular calyx and three pale green petals. Inflorescence is a long panicle arising directly from the base of the pseudostem. Each panicle bears lateral racemes on which, flowers bloom sequentially from base to tip. The number of panicles varies from 2-4 per tiller.
The androecium consists of single fertile stamen. Of the five others, one is completely absent, two modified into a labellum and the remaining two form staminodes. The filiform style protrudes through the groove between the anther lobes. Stigma is funnel-shaped, ciliated and the surface is sticky. Fruits are small, trilocular many seeded capsules. The capsules are fusiform to ovoid in shape and pale green to deep green in colour. Mature seeds are hard, brownish black and covered with thin mucilaginous aril inside the fruit wall.
The flowers remain open for a period of 13-14 hours and stigma receptivity is high during morning hours. The flowers are often cross-pollinated but self-pollination is not uncommon.
Phenological studies indicate that irrespective of cultivars, the tiller produces vegetative buds and panicles on attaining 8 and 10 months growth respectively. Young panicles require 6-9 months to complete the flowering. Flowering-to-harvest stage of the capsule extends to about 120-130 days depending on the climatic conditions.
The visitors have a chance to see a typical plantation area of the most popular variety of the cardamom in the Highranges. As the harvesting season is spread throughout the year for the modern varieties of cardamom, various stages of maturing of the cardamom capsule can be observed and studied.
Pepper is hot, pungent and highly aromatic. It is used in foods, beverages, medicines and preservatives. Its annual production in India is over 50,000 metric tonnes from 1,58,000 hectares. The Highranges of Kerala is the greatest source of pepper in India.
Pepper is indigenous to India and is the oldest and best known spice in the world. It was for pepper that the Europeans set out in search of a sea route to India and discovered the American continents in the process. Foreign traders in pepper later turned colonizers and changed the political history and geography of the whole world. From ancient times, pepper was used in India not only as a spice or condiment, but also as a medicinal ingredient in hundreds of Ayurvedic preparations.
India offers the following pepper products, produced in flawless scientific quality and manner, at present, to the spice-hungry world, at the fairest of rates:
The best quality black and white pepper tuned to the requirement of the consumer.
Organically cultivated and certified black and white pepper produced by preserving the diversity of nature and protecting the environment.
Value-added, ready-to-cook, consumer packed products of different kinds suited to the taste of consumers. Black pepper oil and oleoresin are Indian specialities. Pepper is a perennial vine whose adventitious roots firmly cling to the supports. The small berries on slender spikes are handpicked when mature and dried. On drying it shrivels and become black or deep brown. White pepper is obtained by removing the black mesocarp.
There are several varieties of pepper, of which the most popular traditional Indian varieties are Alleppey black pepper and Tellicherry black pepper. Black pepper varieties like Lampong, Sarawak, Brazilian and Sri Lankan and white pepper varieties such as Muntok, Sarawak and Brazilian compete with modern Indian black and white pepper varieties in the world market.
The most yielding modern varieties like Panniyur-l and Karimunda are cultivated within the resort property and can be observed/studied by the visitors. The cultivation practises and harvesting methods can also be studied in detail.
Coffee is one of the most popular homely refresher drinks in the world. It grows on bushes and has hard beans of semi-globular shape, which are husked, dried and powdered to get coffee powder. The whole bush turns white with aromatic flowers on every twig, and vies with any garden flower in beauty and fragrance.
Kerala and Karnataka are the largest coffee producing states in India. The price of coffee fluctuates according to European demand, which was not very steady during the recent years. However the worst is over according to agriculture experts.
There are coffee plants of Arabica and Robusta varieties inside the premises. These are well cared for. The white flowers and green and red berries are themselves a pleasing sight. The harvesting and processing can also be observed.
Tea is perhaps the most popular refresher beverage in the world. Because of the flavonoids and antioxidants in it, tea is believed to have medicinal properties that resist cancer and coronary diseases. As it brings body temperature to normal in very cold and very hot climates, tea is used in the hottest desert areas of the Sahara and the coldest Tundra regions.
The Chinese emperor Shen Hong, who ruled circa 3000 BC, is believed to have accidentally discovered this beverage, while he was on a hunting trip in a forest. The water he was boiling was not covered properly and a leaf from a tea plant happened to fall into it. The concoction thus obtained tasted very invigorating to the emperor who found out that the tealeaf, which fell into the boiling water was the reason. By 7th century AD, tea had become a common beverage of daily consumption all over China and neighbouring regions.
T'e of the Amoy language is believed to be the root of the word tea. 'Cha', which is used all over South Asia to denote tea, came from the Cantonese language. Tea reached to Europe in the 17th century through Dutch traders and it grew in popularity so fast that, by 1664, it had become a popular drink in England.
In 1832, experiments were made in tea planting by Dr. Christy in the Nilgiris. Tea planting in South India started in earnest in the Nilgiris in 1859 and was followed in central Travancore in 1875, Kannan Devan hills in 1878, Wynaad in 1889 and the Aneimalais in 1897. Tea is now cultivated in over 38 countries, and India is the largest producer of tea, with over 4,00,000 hectares. India produces 78% CTC and 21% orthodox and 1% Green teas out of total production of over 700 million kgs, of which Assam produces more than 55-60% followed by West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Tea belongs to the family - CAMELLIACEAE and the genus is CAMELLIA of which there are over 82 identified species of which only 3 are of importance. They are ASSAM : CAMMELLIA ASSAMICA, CHINA : CAMELLIA SINENSIS or the HYBRID : CAMELLIA ASSAMICA sub species LASIOCALYX. Tea is an evergreen stock in case of China type or tree in case of Assam. The leaves are simple, alternating and serrate, the flowers are bisexual and regular. The leaves should be light green, as normally lighter the colour better the quality.
There are large tracts of manicured tea gardens in the proximity of the Tall Trees Resort. Labourers plucking tealeaves and loading sacks of tender leaves on to trucks are a common sight in this area. The scenic greenery of the tea gardens on the slopes of the hills all around is itself an unforgettable view to the tourists. Tourists can enter the tea gardens and observe the plants and the agrarian activities from very close quarters.