Day 53: Kampot pepper farm
Claire: Kampot is pretty famous for its pepper. For the past two nights, as part of traditional Khmer cuisine, we've had peppercorn stalks in our meals (they taste like a herbal heat) — so we thought it'd be interesting to go check one of the many farms on offer.
Doing a little research, Sothy's Pepper Farm had great reviews and they offered free English speaking tours so won our vote. Tuktuks can make a return trip (they wait for you there) for about $20 (did I mention they use USD here?!) but you can hire a scooter for $6 so that's what we did! We followed the main road out of the town then turned off down a dirt road to the farm which was fine until a car passed us and WE GOT LOST IN A DUST CLOUD.
Our English speaking tour guide was a young French girl, volunteering on a homestay with Sothy's. Considering it was only her first week she was excellent at introducing us to the world of pepper and very knowledgable with any questions we had. We began with a brief history of pepper growing in the Kampot province, which is perfectly suited due to its climate, and had a mini tasting session of the green, red, white and black pepper. As it turns out, they're actually all the same, but differ as a result of their harvesting process.
Venturing into the plantations, we learn all about the growing process. There's many farms in the region, and all of Kampot Pepper is organic, and it's the "first Cambodian product to benefit from the World Trade Association status of Protected Geographical Indication" — sort of like Champagne in France, or Parma Ham in Italy.
Harvested by hand they're then dried out in the hottest place on earth (a Kampot greenhouse) for various durations until some of the outer husks become hard and black transforming into the black peppercorn we know.
The whole farm is slightly over 2 hectares and runs on electricity produced by solar panels and a wind turbine. The majority of the land is covered by fruit trees – rambutan, durian, and mangoes. Of which we learnt that durian fruit is very smelly... which explains why we've seen many pictograms of it on hotel rooms with a red cross through, next to the No Smoking signs!
We end the afternoon with a delicious lunch in their cafe, sprinkled with their fragrant pepper of course :) before returning back to this hotel terrace. Beer?
Gav's day 53 takeway:
- I'm definitely going to buy a moped when I get home. (I probably won't).
- And definitely not the one we had today. I didn't tell Claire at the time, but I had very little faith it was going to make it anywhere.
- But it did. We got there.
- I'm liking Cambodia so far. Having read many things about Cambodia that made me feel unsure about what we would find, I'm feeling positive but we'll know more when we get to the cities I'm sure!