It’s time to spice things up!
Zanzibar and the neighbouring islands of Pemba and Mafia have long been known as the Spice Islands because of their important role in supplying exotic spices (especially cloves) to the rest of the world. It’s also the perfect destination to discover your inner chef so why not kick it off by experiencing an inspiring Zanzibar spice tour that will teach you all about the local spices and how to use them in your next dish.
Spices were highly valued in the days before people could refrigerate their food, as a way of preserving or at least disguising the flavour of perishable foods. Today, of course, tourism is much more important than spices, but there is a delicious whiff of romance about the name “Spice Islands” that lingers enticingly and teases the senses.
Zanzibar is undoubtedly exotic, and whether you travel here from East Africa or further afield, you’ll immediately know that you are somewhere a little more mysterious. The scent of cloves, black pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon seems to hang in the air – at times, you’ll find your nose reminding you of a traditional Christmas.
Visit a Growing Concern
A Zanzibar spice tour to one of the aromatic plantations is one of the island’s quintessential tourist activities, and a wonderfully sensuous way to learn more about the culture, history and cuisine of your holiday destination.
The most interesting tours take you to smaller organic farms (known locally as “shambas”) where you can meet the farmers and learn more about their way of life. You’ll see spices growing, although you may not be able to identify them immediately.
If you’re used to seeing spices ground into powder in neat little glass jars in your kitchen, your first encounter with the living plants may come as a surprise. Nutmeg, for example, grows as a green fruit on a large tree. Inside the fruit is the nutmeg itself, which is protected by a bright red net or “aril” – a natural equivalent of the sacks that oranges are sold in.
Cloves (first introduced to Zanzibar in 1812, and one time a source of great wealth for the island) start life as the red flowers of another species of tree, and once harvested are dried and could find themselves being used in festive recipes, cigarettes or even ant repellent. Cinnamon is perhaps the easiest one to recognise, as it consists of dried, rolled-up pieces of bark – and even when growing, it has that unmistakable aroma.
Spice to meet you
On a Zanzibar spice tour, you’ll be encouraged to crush the plant parts or roll them between your fingers to release the familiar fragrances and flavours. Most tours also include an opportunity to buy Zanzibar spices – perhaps the ultimate Spice Island souvenir, especially if you’re looking for a gift for the chef that has everything.
Once you’ve seen spices growing, the logical next step on your journey is to enjoy them as part of a traditional Zanzibari recipe. Together with other fresh, natural ingredients such as coconut, bananas and seafood, spices feature heavily in Zanzibar’s cuisine. It’s a melting pot (literally) of African, Arabic and Indian influences, and it’s delicious. The staff at Driftwood Beach Lodge can either create authentic dishes for you to try or give you recommendations for the sort of local restaurants that most tourists never find.
The next time you’re in your kitchen at home and it’s a grey, rainy day, you’ll only need to grind some black pepper onto your smashed avo on toast, or sprinkle some cinnamon on your vanilla ice cream, to be transported back to the best holiday you ever had – on the Spice Island of Zanzibar.
To see, smell and savour the best of Zanzibar, call Driftwood Beach Lodge on +255 774 236 455 or click here who can assist you with booking your Zanzibar spice tour. Get in touch for a holiday in the best possible taste.