The pepper crop is in and only the last few strings of the fruit are left drying on the creepers. Most house wives in Goa have a creeper or two of pepper climbing up their coconut or jackfruits trees. They produce enough sprays of the fruit , which if carefully collected and dried before the monsoon rains set in, can well last the till next season.
The burning hot summer afternoons (temperatures touching 38degree celsius) is also good for drying and preserving the Indian Bay leaves. These are not to be confused with the European Bay leaves, being much larger and having a sweet , cinnamon like flavour. Infact the bark of the tree is used as a variety of indigeneous cinnamon. This tree (Cinnamom malbathricus/tamala) is called Tejpatta/ Pungent leafed tree in Hindi .It’s older Sanskrit name is ‘Tamala patra’ which means ‘dark leafed’ and till date it is called that in several Indian languages like Marathi. It is believed that the Greeks mispronounced ‘tamalapatra’ as ‘malabathricus’ and the Romans into ‘malabathrous’ , hence the origin of it’s Latin name.
It is a highly cherished spice and the bark is also periodicaly scraped from the tree and has a lovely cinnamon flavor. The bark is also used widely for medicinal purposes. There are many varieties of trees whose bark is used as Cinnamon, several are native to Africa while a few are native to South East Asia. Several of the trees belong to the Cinnamom family while several others belong to the Cassia family.
In the ancient and medieval ages, pepper and cinnamon were highly coveted spices and great merchant houses financed long and dangereus ocen journeys to India to buy them from the ancient port cities. This trade once fueled the search for new routes to the Orient and finally lead to the discovery of the New World.