Jun 08 2012
Singapore is known as the Garden City, so take some time to relax and smell the pepper flowers at the Spice Garden at Fort Canning Park. This lush hill near the city centre wasn’t a random choice for a spice garden — Singapore’s colonial leaders established one here nearly 200 years ago.
When Singapore became a colony in the early 19th century spices were as valuable as gold. In fact, the spice trade between Europe and Asia was the main reason the British wanted a port in Southeast Asia. The original Spice Garden was established in 1822 by Sir Stamford Raffles, the man considered to be the founder of modern Singapore, to determine which valuable spice plants could be grown in Singapore. The experiments done at this garden resulted in vast plantations of pepper and nutmeg to be grown in the areas that are now Orchard Road and Emerald Hill.
The current Spice Garden at Fort Canning is a replica of the historic one. Although it’s significantly smaller (the original garden included land now occupied by the National Museum, National Library, and YMCA Hotel), all of the same spices can be found here including nutmeg, cloves, turmeric, pepper, ginger and cocoa. If you’re a fan of Asian street food, you should be familiar with many of the aromatic plants.
Rub the green leaves of P. odoratum between your fingers and take a sniff – does it remind you of a steaming bowl of laksa soup? It should – this plant is known in Singapore and Malaysia as laksa leaf, and in Vietnam as Vietnamese cilantro where it is used in salads and summer rolls. If you’ve noticed that desserts and breads in Southeast Asia are often a pale green colour, the reason is Pandanus amaryllifolius (pandan leaf) which has a sweet smell and taste that’s a bit like vanilla.
You don’t have to be a botanist to appreciate the Spice Garden because each plant is clearly labelled. Small signs list the scientific names and culinary uses, as well as fun factoids like that lemongrass is also an insect repellent.
From any location in Fort Canning Park there are signs pointing the way to the Spice Garden. Although it’s slightly uphill, the Spice Garden is otherwise an easy walk with clear trails and big trees providing shade.
Spice Walk at Fort Canning Park
Open 24 hours (lights from 19:00 – 07:00)
Admission is free
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