I love nothing more than photographing this beauty framed against a darkened bluebird sky, sun edging toward oblivion, and it was a nice juxtaposition to wake up in the morning and segue to a bright and lively spice plantation in the heart of Grenada’s lush and verdant countryside.
She really is a hoot: sweet as honey and as deliciously syrupy as only a country girl can be regardless of the negativity in the world at large.
I’ve always been a bit of a botanist, and a country like Grenada is a little slice of heaven for the amateur naturalist.
Pretty much everything with roots grows with vigor in the tropical climate/steady precip that the region provides, and some of the most fantastical varieties of plants thrive in this type of environment. Huge salty nuts filled with coconut? Yep. Bulbous edible vegetable meat that tastes nothing like chicken? Check. Tiny nuts that when shaved, smell like nutmeg? Check, check, check!
So it was with great pleasure for me that we visited the highly functional L’Esterre Estate of the Ramdhanny family one sunny day in February. It was midway between two destinations and there wasn’t the light nor the time to do the place justice so I settled with Lois that I’d return at a later date to actually work on the farm for an extended period.
She seemed to think it would be a hardship for me and agreed immediately that I’d be her free laborer for however long I wanted. But, for a plant-loving, flower-gazing son of hippies, it’ll be a dream come true to shuck cacao with a scimitar cutlass on the slopes of a volcanic remnant just north of Venezuela.
Kristin wrote Lois and asked for some backstory history about the property, and she shared some fascinating intel with us:
Early records show that the property was bought and owned by Frederick Harford from England in the early 1800s. It appears that he spent a significant amount of his life there (35 years) until his death. He was buried at the local parish in 1851 and the property was then apparently used by the church as a Convent for English sisters in the 1920s. This only lasted a few years.
The estate was then passed on to Lawrence Luther Ramdhannny who, together with his wife Gladys, purchased the land in 1949. The family has used it as a home ever since and it is a gorgeous slice of history. At just under 100 acres, the hills and flats that make up the property are rife with nutmeg, cacao, ginger, coconut, bananas and everything in between, all growing in a controlled riot along with ornamental plants like bromeliads, bougainvillea, heliconias and cacti for commercial use at hotels and such.
Now, at a spice plantation like this it’s easy to get distracted by the star of the show but it’s important to look around and soak in the verdant and luxuriant landscape as you go. I get that the addiction attraction to theobromine, the active ingredient in chocolate, is real. I understand the sentiment surrounding chocolate because every time I get a taste my heart rate breaches 150 bpm and, ya know, pretty much the easiest way to make my wife happy is with some quality, high-content chocolate bar. (Editor’s note: He’s not wrong.)
There’s the draw of the irresistibly fun cacao pods and seeing how they dry and the foot shuffling by the women as they ferment and the hot cacao tea with nutmeg, bay leaf and condensed milk, but for me, the real pull was being able to see and imagine how this one farm integrates into not just the local economy, but the world at large.
Fortunes are made based on the production levels at farms like this by commodities traders. Cookie dough, ganache and donut icing depends on farms like this. Stock markets move based on whether this slimy nut that tastes like mango fresh off the tree has a good year. And don’t even get me started on the fruit! Walking outside after a rainstorm I’m scooping fresh starfruit off the grass and marveling at this perishable wonder before slicing it up and adding it to my rum cocktail. Out of respect, y’all.
Speaking of rum…
A lot of good times were created by this hunk of copper!
While I was busy taking Snapchats for my six followers, Kristin was yapping it up with our newfound—and overwhelmingly female—friends from Grenada. I found it so interesting, and so comfortable if I’m being honest, to be around all of these powerful women running the show on a Caribbean island. Maybe it’s a trend, maybe it’s always been this way and I’m just now noticing it but in either case, I’m just going to say it out loud:
#GIRLPOWER is where it’s at.
Navigating this verdant island is no easy feat. Kristin will write a nuts-and-bolts post on getting to and around Grenada in the coming weeks, but to visit the plantation requires skirting the eastern coast and veering inland from Grenville (you’d need a turn-by-turn set of directions to find it, like most locales on the island). In the future, tour company Savor the Spice might be offering day trips to L’Esterre beginning in late 2017, so watch their site for updates.