Spice Garden at Fort Canning Park, Singapore -- Showcase of Southeast Asian Herbs and Spices
Not perhaps the best-known of Singapore attractions, the Spice Garden at Fort Canning Park is a veritable trove of Singapore's natural history, with over 100 varieties of plants and trees lining its trails. Located on Fort Canning Hill, the Spice Garden also offers a welcome respite from the tropical heat and panoramic views of Singapore city.
The garden's extensive collection of trees, plants and herbs includes:
- the common (and not-so-common) spices and herbs used in cooking
- spices which were important economic products for the region such as cloves
- plants prized for their medicinal and healing properties
- trees and shrubs grown for ornamental purposes.
Slice of Singapore's History -- Natural and Cultural
The Spice Garden traces its beginnings to 1822, when Singapore's first experimental and botanical garden was established on that very site by Sir Stamford Raffles, the "founder" of Singapore.
Raffles, who was at that time based in Bencoolen (in Indonesia), sent spices of economic value such as cloves and nutmegs to be planted in the garden.
The Spice Garden does a good job recreating the feel of that colonial-era botanical garden, albeit on a much smaller scale, with its walkways and terraces, shaded by many large, mature trees. The garden, sitting as it does on the slopes of Fort Canning Hill, also boasts great views over the bustling commercial areas of Singapore city.
Many of the trees and plants give insight to the culture and traditions of the peoples in the Southeast Asian region, particularly the Malays, who make extensive use of indigenous plants in preparing traditional food favourites and healing remedies.
You will find spice plants such as chilli, galangal, lemongrass, turmeric, curry leaves, "laksa" leaves, and many types of limes and gingers. Nutmeg and clove trees -- first introduced into the garden by Raffles -- can be seen in the garden as well.
Highlights of the Spice Garden I: Plants used in local cuisine
More on Fort Canning Park, and how to get there
- Fort Canning Park
National Parks Board Singapore official website, with more information on Fort Canning Park, and instructions on how to get there.
Blog on the Spice Garden
Food Culture in Southeast Asia
What I Like about the Spice Garden
- The plants, herbs and spices are clearly labelled with short descriptions of what they are used for. I was particularly interested in learning about the plants used in traditional healing remedies.
- The trail is well-shaded by the many large, mature trees growing there, giving protection from the tropical heat.
- As you explore, you are likely to hear birds and if you are eagle-eyed, you may even spot a few. If you are lucky, you may see squirrels. There are also great views of the surrounding city areas.
- If you have a guide with you to show you which plants are edible, you can actually snap off a leaf or two and taste them. They do not use pesticides at the park, so it is quite safe. Or you can pick the leaves, crush them with your fingers to discover the fragrances of the various plants.
Tips for Visitors:
- Wear comfortable shoes and clothes, and be prepared to walk up and down slopes.
- Sign up for the National Parks Board (NParks) newsletter to find out about walks, talks and other park happenings: http://www.nparks.gov.sg/cms/
Highlights of the Spice Garden II: Plants used in traditional healing preparations
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