names: Small cardamom; lesser cardamom; true cardamom; Malabar
cardamom; green cardamom
the 'queen of spices', is a rich spice culled from the seeds of a
perennial plant, Elettaria cardamomum. It is one of the highly prized
spices of the world. It is believed that the original home of this
precious spice is the mountains of the South- Western parts of the
Indian Peninsula. As early as the 4th century BC cardamom was used
in India as a medicinal herb and was an article of Greek and Roman
is a native of Western Ghats in South India. India had a virtual monopoly
of cardamom till recently. But now it is being cultivated in Guatemala,
SriLanka, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Tanzania.
Cardamom cultivation in India is confined to three states, viz. Kerala,
Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
is a perennial bushy herb. The tuberous underground rhizome is its
real stem and the aerial shoot is a pseudostem and formed by the encircling
leaf sheaths. The leaves are distichous, long, alternate and lanceolate
acuminate in shape. Flowers are borne on panicles and they emerge
directly from the underground stem on long floral stalks. They are
hermaphrodite and zygomorphic. The corolla is tubular, 3-lobed, pale
green, androecium with petalloid labellum white in colour with pink
or purplish veins, composed of three modified stamens with an undulated
edge. There are two further rudimentary staminodes and one functional
stamen. The fruit are tri-locular, ovoid or oblong, greenish-brown
capsules containing about 15-20 seeds attached to axile placenta.
Light reddish or dark reddish brown seeds are irregularily 3-sided,
transversely wrinkled or furrowed and are covered by a membraneous
grows abundantly in altitudes ranging from 900 to 1370 m above sea
level, with a warm humid atmosphere, evenly distributed rainfall and
humus-rich loamy soil. It thrives best under moderate shade. Cardamom
is propagated both vegetatively and by seeds. Seeds from well ripened
fruits are sown in raised beds and when the seedlings attain a height
of 25-30 cm they are transplanted into field or secondary nursery
beds. Vegetative propagation is by means of clones, a portion of the
rhizome with one or two new tillers. Micropropagation is also widely
employed for the propagation of cardamom. Planting is normally done
in June-July with the receipt of south-west monsoon rains in pits
or trenches at a spacing varying from 0.9 to 3.0 m depending on the
type of cardamom.
maiden crop in cardamom is obtained in the third year of planting.
Flowering commences in April-May and continues till July-August. Harvesting
is done at an interval of 30-40 days and only fruits which are just
nearing ripeness are harvested. Harvested fruits are dried by exposing
them to sun light or by heating or by flue curing. The dried capsules
are cleaned, sorted and graded based on bulk density, colour and size.
Capsules which lack uniform green colour are bleached by using bleaching
powder, sulphur dioxide or hydrogen peroxide.
chemical composition of cardamom varies considerably with variety,
region and age of the product. The principal quality of determinant
is the content and compositon of the volatile oil. Cardamom contains
between 2% and 10% essential oil, out of which the major portion is
in seeds. The volatile oil contains about 25-40% cineole, 30-40% a-terpinyl
acetate and about 1-2% limonene.
cardamom seeds have a warm, slightly pungent and highly aromatic flavour.
They are popular seasoning in Oriental dishes, particularly curries
and in Scandinavian pasteries. In Middle East countries it is used
mostly in the preparation of 'Gahwa', a strong cardamom-coffee concoction.
and other use
cardamom oil is a precious ingredient in food preparations, perfumery,
health foods, medicine and beverages. A good portion is consumed for
chewing or as a masticatory item. In medicine, it is used as powerful
aromatic, stimulant, carminative, stomachic and diuretic, but rarely
used alone. It also checks nausea and vomiting, helps in combating
digestive ailments. Herbal lores on this spice suggest it can be used
to freshen your breath and support smooth digestion.