A Spicy Afternoon

Linda Lou Burton posting from Zanzibar Serena Hotel, Stone Town, Zanzibar, TanzaniaCinnamon is tree bark. A pineapple plant produces only ONE pineapple. And the lipstick tree (no, I’m not kidding) has little red berries inside its spiny smooch-smooch pod that some people (have been known to) use to redden their lips. All of this was news to me! Cinnamon is TREE BARK? That’s right, that beloved wonderful-smelling stuff Mother would sprinkle on toast for me (a picky-eater-kid) comes from the bark of a tree. Imagine this: you scrape off the outer bark of a cinnamon tree (it’s an evergreen); then you cut out the inner bark, in strips. As the bark dries, it rolls into a curl. The dried curls are cut into “quills” 2-4 inches long for sale. Somehow or other this delicious tree bark winds up powdered on bread making cinnamon toast for picky kids. Or cinnamon rolls for everybody. We couldn’t even have Halloween Red Hots without that fragrant tree bark! That’s just part of what we learned this afternoon at the Jambo Spice Farm, where things that sit in everybody’s kitchen cabinet take on an exotic aura. Like cloves, the “Emperor of Spices”; like nutmeg, turmeric, cardamom, black pepper. You should have been there!

Ali drove, and Said led the tour, along with locals on the farm; a jungley maze of green to wander through on a warm afternoon. No crowds, no hurry, just stop, look, smell, and taste. Touch a banana while it’s hanging on the tree, still growing. Watch a brave soul shimmy up a coconut tree while everyone below chants him higher, higher, daring. Rick wound up with a hat and a tie made of woven coconut leaves (and he didn’t have to climb the tree). I gained a new appreciation for the gardening tactics regarding pineapple. Cut off the top and plant it so it can make another plant. Eat the pineapple fruit. Repeat. As for the lipstick tree: those bright red berries actually are used in industrial dyes for food preparation and cosmetics. My vote for prettiest just-off-the-tree spice was the nutmeg – once you open the outer shell it looks like you’ve lucked into a fancily-decorated chocolate bon-bon. Don’t you think?




Jambo Spice Farm is a 30-minute drive from Stone Town, in a cluster of spice-growing farms – Abeid, Badru, SISO, Tangawizi; and near the Zanzibar Agricultural Research Institute and the School of Agriculture. The drive passes along the coastline, turning eastward at Bububu.

Why do spices grow so profusely in Zanzibar? Perfect soil and climate – plenty of rain and always, always warm.


Zanzibar Serena Hotel https://www.serenahotels.com/zanzibar

Fisherman’s Tours https://fishermantours.com/

Zanzibar School of Agriculture  https://suza.ac.tz/soa/

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