Goa one of the top tourist places in India is packed to the brim with popular and fascinating attractions. One of the top things to do in Goa if you are looking for the offbeat Goa is to visit the spice gardens. There are numerous spice gardens in Goa in and around the temple town of Ponda. The spice farms offer you a tour of their garden where you can learn about the spices and their organic cultivation.
Indian food is part of our rich cultural heritage and an integral part of Indian cuisine are rich spices. Apart from the strong aroma and the taste spices adds to the food the spices also have great medicinal benefits and the tour familiarizes you of all these interesting facts.
Sahakari Spice Farm Goa
We visited the Sahakari Spice Farm which is one of the largest and famous spice gardens in Goa. The Sahakari Spice Farm is spread over 130 acres of which 60 acres are reserved for the cultivation of spices, fruits, medicinal trees, and herbs.
Tickets and Prices
We visited during the Christmas week and it was extremely crowded. Though it took us a few minutes to enter and park our car we had no problems later joining a tour or having lunch due to the crowd. Everything seemed to be well managed.
The ticket counter is located next to the parking. The ticket when we visited (2018) was 400 per person which included the tour of the spice farm and the buffet lunch. We bought the tickets and walked into the ‘Welcome Area’ which was a pleasant pavilion bedecked with coconut palm leaves where we were welcomed with lemongrass tea which was very refreshing after driving in the scorching sun.
We had read that they welcome with traditional Aarti, Kumkum and Garlands which was not the case when we visited probably due to a large number of visitors.
Spice Farm Tour
Out of the 130 acres of the spice garden, only 1 acre is accessible to the visitors and the site where the tour of the spice farm takes place. The tour walks you through the lush wooded area amidst the aroma of spices, fresh cool air, and the gushing of the stream which makes for a unique experience.
We had done a tour of the spice garden before in Kerala a few years back but it is always an amazing experience walking through these gardens and learning about the spices we get to know something new every time.
We learned about the processing of Feni which is the popular liquor produced in Goa. Feni is obtained by fermentation of cashew apples which are found in abundance in the state of Goa. The guide explained us the process of fermentation of cashew juice extract and the distillation process where Urrack (about 15% ) is produced after first distillation and ‘Cazulo’ ( about 40-42% alcohol) produced after the second round of distillation.
Tip – When you visit Goa you should definitely shop for some cashew nuts they are of very fine qualities.
Coming back to the spice garden, our tour guide also offered us to taste Feni about 30 ml. Accordingly, to her, up to 30 ml acts as a medicine for a cough, cold and above that acts as ‘fuel for the rocket’.
The tour was full of humor which the visitors enjoyed a lot.
The betel nut palm trees were in abundance in the garden. The climbing of these palms is much similar to that of coconut palms. The climbers just swing from palm to another without getting down which interesting to watch. The betel nut palms are planted close to each other to help the climbers swing to the next tree.
Betel nut is usually eaten with a pan or chewed directly and acts as a breath freshener. It is believed to have a great medicinal value which helps avoid cavities, gum infection, and indigestion.
There was a lot of interesting information shared about the spices too. Like the Piri Piri Chilli which is believed to be one of the most pungent in the world. And they grow in an upward direction as opposed to the normal chillis which grow in the downward direction.
We didn’t know there is the male and female version of the pineapples too. Though we have tried both the varieties back home never knew they were of a different gender. The female is yellow and sweet while the male ones are white inside and mostly sour.
We also got see the plants of many other spices like turmeric, pepper, ginger, coffee beans, cocoa, cardamom, and Vanilla.
Did you know there are two kinds of Cardomom – green and black. The green ones are mostly used in sweets the black ones are used in curries and biryanis. The black ones don’t have much medicinal value the green ones are good for eyesight, memory, depression, to relieve stress and good for digestion. And the cinnamon used in sweets and desserts is actually the bark of the tree? Amazing isn’t it? The bark of the tree is used as cinnamon, the leaves called Indian Bay Leaves and the dried Cinnamon buds are also used in cooking.
We also got to see the Vanilla or Orchid Spice plant which grows as a vine on other trees and feeds on its nutrients. The Vanilla flavor is derived from the orchids of the plant. Vanilla is the second-most expensive spice after saffron.
At the end of the tour, the guide poured down a ladle full of citronella oil and lavender oil flavored cold water down your neck. The water has a medicinal property which relieves stress and fatigue and relaxes the body.
Lunch at Sahakari Spice Farm
Lunch was again a unique experience. The seating arrangement consisted of wooden tables and benches. The food menu consisting of authentic Goan food was scrumptious. The food was served in plates made out of leaves of betel nut palms which are decomposable. The spoons were also of the same material. The food was stored in earthen pots and the serving spoons were made of coconut shells which seemed very interesting.
The menu consisted of steamed rice, dal vegetable, sweet rice for dessert, kokum juice and Chicken Xacuti in the nonveg plate.
If you have a habit of ending your meals with a banana. They had hanged a large branch of banana at the exit of the pavilion.
Organic Spice Farm Shop
There is also a small shop where you can buy organic spices and other organic items like oils, ointments, and some Goan Handicrafts.
The page of the spice farm talks about other entertainment programs like folk dances and bathing of elephants none of which happened during our visit. If you are interested you can get in touch with them for more information here.
Butterfly Conservatory Of Goa, Ponda
The Butterfly Conservatory Of Goa in Ponda is a lesser known attraction in Goa. It is located less than 10 minutes drive from the Sahakari Spice Farm. The conservatory is maintained by a couple and a caretaker who will walk you around the sanctuary. The sanctuary is very small and we did not spot any butterflies during our visit just a couple of birds and spiders.
You can learn about the types of butterflies and the stages of the butterfly life cycle which may be more interest for the kids. There is a fish pond where you can get a natural pedicure. You can see a variety of orchids grown on the branches of a larger tree.
You can visit the roof garden built on the house of the owner and learn about the techniques used in its maintenance. Interestingly the water supplied to the roof garden and the plants and trees of the sanctuary are by rainwater harvesting.
The best time to visit according to the caretaker is in the mornings when there is a larger probability of spotting butterflies.
Where Did We Stay in Goa?
Agonda Beach Bumps on Agonda Beach in South Goa is one of the best beach resorts for a relaxed vacation. The resort has sea-facing and non sea-facing huts, a restaurant where seatings arrangements for dinner is made on the beach. The resort also arranges for boat tours.
Have you visited a spice garden? Do share with us in comments.
If you have a few days in Goa plan to explore the places around Goa which have some of the gorgeous hidden beaches, quaint villages, and mouthwatering seafood.
Things to do in Temple Town of Gokarna – Gokarna is about 150 km from Goa
Karwar – The Pristine untouched beaches and the Scrumptious Sea Food – 85 Km from Goa
Murudeshwar Temple – A Visit to the World’s Second Tallest Shiva Statue – 200 km from Goa