Almost all food preparations in Sri Lanka are enhanced with various types of spices as done in countries of Southeast Asia. Spices give the color, flavor, taste and fragrance to dishes. Foreign visitors, especially from Europe relish Sri Lankan food because of the spicy flavors which are a sharp contrast to the drab preparations found in their countries.
It could be said that the fabric of Sri Lankan history is interwoven with spices as in ancient times when Sri Lanka was known as Tabrobane, Serendib, Ceylon, Spices made it famous throughout the world. History records the spice trade of Ceylon with the Arabs, Greeks and Romans. Many countries as long ago as the 14th century routed their ships to Ceylon trading in spices and ivory. Even the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British that captured Sri Lanka during various eras considered this country to be an asset due to its spice and ivory trade.
The Dutch found the value of spices as a trading product and laid out spice gardens for commercial purposes bringing down spice plants from French colonies in the 1720’s. Cloves, cardamom, pepper, nutmeg, mace, ginger and cinnamon were processed and exported on a large scale. During the reign of the Dutch in Ceylon, cinnamon became the major export item when the Dutch Governor Iman Willem Falck established cinnamon plantations n 1769.
Even at present spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, mace, black pepper, turmeric, etc. are grown and exported as there is a heavy demand for these spices in Europe and the Middle East.
You can visit some of these spice and herbal gardens situated in Matale, Mawanella and Kandy (central hills) and see for yourself how spices are grown and processed. There are also cocoa, citronella, sandalwood, margosa (neem) , almond, jasmine plantations that are worth a visit. Valuable herbs with potent healing properties used in the treatment of various diseases by oil extraction and boiled preparations according to native (ayurvedic) treatment are also grown in these spice gardens.
There is a Spice Council set up in Sri Lanka at No.14, Masjid Lane, Kirulapone (phone: +94-11-7635025) that deals exclusively with the spice industry and all information in this regard can be obtained from them. The Spice Council succeeded the Ceylon Institute of Scientific & Industrial Research (CISIR) and functions under the Ministry of Technology & Research and conforms to international quality management standards.