…an emerald among the jungles of Golden Stream Village…
Just five minutes from Nim Li Punit is Belize Spice Farm & Botanical Garden, an emerald among the jungles of Golden Stream Village. Located on Southern Highway, Hellagte, Belize, it is owned by retired doctor Tom Matthew and his wife Tessy Matthew. They are both originally from Kerala, India, but moved to Belize after falling in love with its serenity.
Dr. Matthew’s farm and garden currently consists of approximately 5,000 acres of greenery―which is just under 8 square miles. With the help of the Belizean government, he was able to import fruits, spices, wood, and flowers native to Kerala and grow them on his land. These include (but are not limited to) tellicherry black pepper, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, and teak.
The climate in Belize is similar to that of Kerala, so the spices adapted very well to their new home. The farm provides a variety of local and exotic spices to the Belizean residents so that many of the items do not have to be imported from Mexico or Guatemala, both creating jobs as well as culinary resources.
Upon entering the farm, the first thing that strikes you is the incredible smell; the air is quite aromatic―like perfume, but fresh, uplifting, spicy, and floral. Inside, the facility is stunning, built from the teak grown right there on the farm. The wood shimmers, and you are welcomed by a wonderful display of dried spices, honey, jams, and jarred recado―a Mexican and Belizean spice paste made mostly with annatto seeds. Everything is cultivated and processed at the farm, so you will be getting the freshest products. This is especially evident when you can smell many of the spices right through their packaging.
I regret that our group did not have the time to eat there, but there is a restaurant that specializes in Belizean, American, and East Indian cuisine. It is quite a unique experience to see Mayan and East Indian cuisine together under the same roof. I will definitely go back.
Our tour guide was Carlos, an energetic young man who is passionate about his work. He helped us onto a tractor trailer elegantly designed from the same teak grown on the farm. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch our driver’s name, but he helped to pick out spices, flowers, and leaves for us to smell. Along the road, Carlos pulled a bunch of large, glossy leaves off a tree. “This is garlic leaf,” he said, “We don’t eat it, but we use it as a natural pesticide since this is an organic farm.” We’ve seen not one jar of chemicals since our ride.
The trailer rode along a path decorated with floral arches and elegant bridges. Carlos would pick fresh plants and spices off of the growing stems and explain their purpose and their cultivating processes. Fresh turmeric and cinnamon among others were highly fragrant and intensely flavored―a characteristic lacking in a lot of commercial American supermarkets. I could only imagine just how delicious they would be when used fresh. Carlos stated that lately, he has been enjoying using all of the farm’s resources for cooking versus learning how to grow them.
This is a precious place to visit if you ever find yourself in Southern Belize. The spice farm is also used as a venue for weddings and events with its lotus dotted canals, rosy bridges, and flowered corridors. Toward the end, I made out like a bandit, purchasing an arm filled with spices unique to this land. Look out for my Belize Spice Farm Haul to see what treasures I took home!
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