Karnataka - A mosaic wonderland
The large Indian state of Karnataka, which makes its cashew-shaped home in the south-western tip of the country, houses a mosaic of landscapes and climates – making rich pickings for herbs lovers like us.
Travel to the west coast of Karnataka and you’re in one of the wettest regions in India, thanks to the seasonal monsoon that washes by every June. Bordered by the Arabian Sea, this humid coastal flank is abundantly green: lush with vegetation and jungle-clad hills that teem with valuable Ayurvedic herbs and trees, such as arjuna, frankincense and kapikacchu.
Move further inland and the misty peaks of the Western Ghats rise up to greet you. Ribboning in an unbroken line parallel to Karnataka’s coast, the mountain range is one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, containing many rare endemic species of plants and animals (including an aggressive tick that leaves our herb sourcing team itching with bites for months every year).
These lush mountains are the last bastion of Karnataka’s tropical climate, however. Their size and scope prevent the monsoon’s rain clouds spreading east over the rest of the region, leaving a dramatic imprint on central Karnataka.
As you journey into Karnataka’s northern heartland, lush green landscapes become cauterized-brown; turn south and the terrain becomes distinctly sun-baked. Even here life always finds a way through.
Throughout this varied landscape grow some of nature’s most incredible organic herbs. In North Karnataka’s arid dark soils for example precious species such as ashwagandha, andrographis and gokshura grow strong. A little further south in the green of central Karnataka is where we source brahmi and gotu kola - grown in lush paddy fields; and where ginger and long pepper absorb the warming properties of the sub-tropical sun; whilst tulsi flourishes in the deep red soil.
Most of the farmers we work with in Karnataka own small plots of land (an average of five acres) and are not materially wealthy. However, most have a comfortable way of life – the climate allows them to grow crops all year round, and their fields are usually bursting with nutritious fruits and vegetables to sustain them when income is low.
With its contrast of soils and landscapes, Karnataka is a state abundant with natural resources – a beautiful basket of nature’s herbs.
Perhaps that’s why we love it as much as we do.