If your mouth is watering just at the sight of those words (I’m salivating while typing them), then look no further for your next dream vacation. The Pimenta on Haritha Farms is a “farm-stay” in the southern India state of Kerala, an hour southeast of Cochin (or Kochi), the state’s economic center. Don’t let the “farm-stay” bit dry up your tastebuds: There is no stable-shoveling here (though you can witness some elephant training, if you wish). No, the Pimenta offers four cozy cottages snuggled into an organic spice forest; three meals a day of decadent, fresh, vegetarian Indian food; and the opportunity to live on an authentic Keralan farmstead.
Jacob Mathew, co-owner of The Pimenta, says that the best way to experience Haritha (“green”) Farms is through the food. They offer 3-day and 7-day cooking adventures that include step-by-step preparation lessons, plenty of local cultural activities (visits to a pineapple market, curry powder facilities, tea farms, local temples and churches, etc.), and, of course, plenty of good eating.
Kerala is poor by global standards, but enjoys a low cost of living, long life expectancy, and literacy rates. The Pimenta helps support its local region not only by bringing in sustainable tourism dollars, but also by providing demand for its local crops through its focus on Keralan cuisine.
The traditionally built cottages use a solar-powered water heater and bio-gas in the kitchen. Sky lights and CFLs keep the bungalows lit and the energy bills low. They’ve also been planting native food, fruit and spice plants on the grounds to help offset their small carbon footprint. Pimenta uses ayurvedic soaps and household cleaners derived from traditional Indian herbal wisdom. In the future, the farm wants to incorporate more solar power and install a water-harvesting system. Mathew plans to continue replanting native Indian polyculture crops on the grounds formerly given over to rubber plantations.
Haritha Farms hopes that the wafting scents of ginger curry and masala cauliflower -- not to mention their eco-efforts -- will lure tourists off the more well-trod vacation routes of the Southern Indian coast. Diffusing those destination crowds can help alleviate some of the country’s eco-pressure – and introduce world-travelers to a flavor of southern India they might never have tasted.
Three-day cooking residency: Includes lodging, all meals, daily cooking lessons, and local tours. $505, single; $725 double ($362/pp); $1010, triple ($336/pp). Nightly rates work out to $112-$168/pp.
Seven-day cooking adventure: Includes lodging, all meals, daily cooking lessons, and local tours. $1010, single; $1440, double ($720/pp); $2000, triple ($667/pp). Nightly rates work out to $95-$144/pp.
Special Economy Packages: If you’re a college student under 30; a prior guest; an organic farmer or environmentalist; a nature or environmental writer; a fellow eco-tourism provider; or a member of Green Peace, the Green Party, or another ecological institution, e-mail Jacob about special economy rates.
Contact The Pimenta for exact rates. Listed rates are valid until the end of May 2008. Prices go higher November through January, so get traveling!
Address: Kadalikad Post -686670, Kerala, India
Phone: + 91 485 2260216 or +91 9249124206
Mobile: +91 (0) 9447302347
Whether you get to The Pimenta by plane, train, boat, or bus, the staff suggests passing the time by reading The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, which takes place in a Keralan town of Aymanam. You should also load up your ipod with some classical Indian music. Try this collection of South Indian classical music: