Kew Gardens celebrates spices

We don?t think twice about the peppermill on our dining table or the vanilla in our ice-cream, but the power of some plants to colour, flavour and preserve, makes them worth more than their weight in gold.

This summer, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew will explore the mystical world of spices: From the distant lands in which they grow, to the botanists authenticating them at Kew for hundreds of years, their stories will come to life through a programme bursting with banquets, interactive installations and exhibitions.

Find yourself transported to exotic climes as you discover the botanical origins of spices throughout the Gardens: Come face-to-face with mace and cloves in the steamy Palm House; understand why saffron is the most expensive spice in the world when you view specimens of Crocus sativus in the Davies Alpine House. Whether plant seed, root, bark (or even stigmas – female plant reproductive organs…) find out what makes a spice a spice and learn of the methods used and challenges faced by the people who grow and prepare spices today.

Discover how in 15th century Europe, tales of spices? mysterious powers and intoxicating aromas paved the way for international trade and a flow of knowledge and traditions that shaped the world we live in today. Kew played a central role in this period, both as a centre for authentication and with its botanists chasing rumours around the globe, hunting prized spice plants for collectors and traders… Intriguing artefacts, diary entries, and East India Company herbarium sheets uncovered from the Kew Collections will bring these brutal, brave, and treacherous stories to life in The Marianne North Gallery.

?Barter? at a Spice Exchange and get a flavour for how the spice trade facilitates global cultural interaction… Find out why pepper and cardamom are the king and queen of spices as you create your own spice mix to take home… Or take a tour around the Gardens on rickshaw-inspired contraptions and discover the myriad of ways human cultures use spices: From cloves for toothache, to turmeric for dyeing ceremonial robes, the chemical powers of spices can potentially do much, much more than just flavour dishes.

No spice festival would be complete without fantastic food and indeed throughout the Gardens visitors will enjoy delectable, spiced dishes and drinks from around the globe in street food vans, in the Orangery and Pavilion restaurants and in a pop-up bread kitchen.

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