Eleven meters up a pole, what the hell for?
In life generally, we take a lot of things for granted. I put it down to being so bloody lucky. Things at our finger tips and in our busy life we don’t take the time to think about the simple things. From the air we breathe to the advanced technology available. The entities, resources and objects at our disposal and it’s easy to forget, to take the time to appreciate, just what we do have.
Food falls into this in a big way. Ok you need cash, but for a few bucks what’s on offer is amazing. In season, out of season, local or from lands far away, the offerings available are mind blowing. Local markets and producers, supermarkets and on line shopping there is pretty much nothing you can’t get. So do we take the time to be grateful? Nowhere near enough!!
As a self-confessed food junkie I do try to discover the where, how and why the food item has arrived at my doorstep. But sometimes things are just overlooked. We often purchase, use for the recipe required and give it very little thought. Where did it come from? How did this get to be in my shopping basket?
It was on a recent holiday this was really brought to my attention. As I headed into the lush mountain area of Munduk, Bali, Indonesia, our driver informed us of the rich soil and with the lush rain that it was a very fertile area. Three products, of which the area was well known for was rice, coffee and cloves. I have has the pleasure of visiting the stunning terraced rice fields before and my partner Mark once worked at the amazing Whitsunday Gold coffee farm. So I have knowledge of both their production, time, effort and love that goes into each grain and bean. But cloves, I now feel embarrassed to admit I knew very little. In fact it was one ingredient I never gave much thought. Used many times in assorted recipes, bitten on one or two for a tooth ache. Even studded oranges with them for the classic Christmas decoration. So the excitement that I was about to find out began to grow.
That morning as we drove into the area I noticed very long bamboo poles lying by the side of the road. Thought they must have a purpose but no idea as to what. Something I will endeavour to find out.
It didn’t take long to find out how these aromatic little studs of flavour were grown, harvested and got to the stage, as we know, a clove. On arrival day we set off on foot to explore the area and very quickly noticed the streets were lined with clove trees. Big old clove trees with braches stretching very high, 8-12meters high and full with little bunches of clove flower buds. Next stumbled across sheets of cloves, at different stages, drying by the side of the road. Sheets of green to crimson brown little studs, paving the footpaths. In my eyes sheer beauty. The roads were also lined with women and children hand picking each clove flower, ready for drying. Each clove hand-picked from the flowed cluster. This I never knew
Second day, off we headed again to explore, heading off the beaten track through the forests the surround the rice fields. At the base of the mountain it was truly an area of beauty. Plush greenery everywhere with a patchwork of terraced rice paddy fields. Down a track we wandered, alongside a small stream. In the distance we could hear some voices. As we approached I saw a woman picking some of the clove flower clusters, she seems to be alone. Who was she talking to? Well freakin hell, I looked up to see a young man at some 11 meters up one of these very simple bamboo ladders, hand picking cloves. I’m feeling dizzy for looking up so high and then he starts waving frantically, “hello”. All I can do is respond to say, “hang on, you’re very high up”. Ha, as if he didn’t know that but their friendly nature won over his safety, bless.
Cloves like all spices have an amazing history, used in cigarettes, as an insect repellent, many medicinal uses and of course their aromatic and warming flavour when added to a dish.
This is one spice I will never look at the same again.