Alright, I have resigned myself to the fact that I probably will not have time to sit down and write down just how marvelous Matt and my vacation was at the end of August to the tropical and lush Banda Islands, which are a tiny cluster of islands where even the largest one can be walked in a day.
First, I’ll start off with why “Nutmeg!” You should really read Matt’s guest post before this – it explains it all. Therefore, I think I will make this kind of a photo series with really long captions of the nutmeg we encountered. I am taking quite liberally from photos that Matt took and our travel companion Drew took.
Strolling through the downtown of Banda Naira, which is just literally a 2 minute boat ride across from the resident volcanic island (Gunung Api, featured here). Sadly, we never got to patronize the Nutmeg Cafe, because it was Eid and a lot of shops were closed for the holiday.
Drew pointed out we would be historical dunderheads if we missed out on the opportunity to actually set foot and run around on the famed Island of Run – THE famed nutmeg island where it all began. More so than the other islands this is the one where nutmeg production was at an apex. This is the island that was traded for modern day Manhattan in NYC. This is the island where the Dutch basically committed genocide and replaced the entire island’s population with more docile workers/slaves from Java.
We visited a lot of forts. Their sole reason for existing was so the British, Portuguese and Dutch could play conquest on Banda’s islands and stake out their claim to the nutmeg production.
We got to talk to a modern day nutmeg farmer who was walking out of a historic nutmeg plantation with a bag full of nutmeg. Drew (in the white man’s attempt at squatting) interviewed him on his production scale and sales and distribution method – it involves a lot of indirect selling through middle men.
We ate nutmeg jelly as applied on a pancake/crepe. This jelly was really nice made from the meaty flesh of the nutmeg fruit, which does not taste like the spice. The jelly was not commonly found and was only made by the wife of this particular guest house/restaurant owner. We found it significantly more pleasing to the palate than the nutmeg jam, which was oddly stringent and perfume-y. Identification of another opportunity to Make Markets Work for the Poor, and to strengthen the Value Chain: diversification of not just nutmeg jam but also jelly!
We ate the raw nutmeg fruit in rujak, which is a Maluku specialty, of unripe/sour fruits and veggies cut up and mixed in a stone, plate-like mortar and pestle with peanuts, chili and lots of palm sugar. Put into a banana leaf and eaten by hand(the right hand, because the left hand is supposed to be used for other business…)
We ate the raw nutmeg fruit in rujak, which is a Maluku specialty, of unripe/sour fruits and veggies cut up and mixed in a stone, plate-like mortar and pestle with peanuts, chili and lots of palm sugar. This was at the town’s Hari Raya celebration, so the woman making the rujak was dancing to the music being performed on the stage next to her food stall. The lead singer was this scrawny 11-year old boy.
And of course under nutmeg trees and through nutmeg groves we walked, ruminated and dined.