Monday, March 5, 2012

Cardamom(Ilaichi) Cultivation

Scientific classification

Kingdom      : Plantae
(unranked)   : Angiosperms
(unranked)   : Monocots
(unranked)   : Commelinids
Order          : Zingiberales
Family         : Zingiberaceae
Genera        : Amomum

Cardamom (or cardamon) refers to several plants of the genera Elettaria and Amomum in the ginger family Zingiberaceae. Both genera are native to India,Nepal and Bhutan; they are recognised by their small seed pod, triangular in cross-section and spindle-shaped, with a thin papery outer shell and small black seeds. Today, the majority of cardamom is still grown in southern India, although some other countries, such as Guatemala and Sri Lanka, have also begun to cultivate it. Elettaria pods are light green while Amomum pods are larger and dark brown.

Cardamom is often named as the “third most expensive” spice in the world (after saffron and vanilla), and the high price reflects the high reputation of this most pleasantly scented spice. Despite its numerous applications in the cooking styles of Sri Lanka, India and Iran, 60% of the world production is exported to Arab (South West Asia, North Africa) countries, where the larger part is used to prepare coffee.


The word cardamom is derived from the Latin cardamomum, itself the latinisation of the Greek καρδάμωμον (kardamomon), a compound of κάρδαμον (kardamon), "cress" + ἄμωμον (amomon), which was the name for a kind of an Indian spice plant. The earliest attested form of the word is the Mycenaean Greek ka-da-mi-ja, written in Linear B syllabic script in the list of flavourings on the "Spice" tablets found among palace archives in the House of the Sphinxes in Mycenae.

 The modern genus name Elettaria is derived from the local name in a South Asian tongue; cf. Hindi ilaychi   “green cardamom”; yet some languages have very similar names for black cardamom. The common source is Sanskrit, where cardamom is called ela  or ellka, which is itself a loan from a Dravidian language. From the corresponding Dravidian root, *ĒL, all modern names of cardamom in the major Dravidian languages are directly derived, e. g., Kannada elakki , Telugu yelakulu , Tamil elakkai  and Malayalam elakkay . The second element kai means “fruit”

Cardamom plant 

Cardamom is native to India and Sri Lanka where it occurs in the wild. It has been introduced all over all over tropical Asia where it is cultivated.

Cardamom pods are produced by several varieties of perennial plants and belong to the ginger family (Zingiberaceae). Cardamom plants are sometimes called "cinnamon palms" and Cardamom. Most commercially available cardamom spice is a variety of two species, Elettaria cardamomu, or Amomun kravanb. The cardamom plants can grow to be large bushes consisting of long, straight, slender stems with numerous symmetrical, dark green, pointed leaves.

The plant grows in a thick clump of up to 20 leafy shoots. It can reach a height of between 2 to almost 6 m.

Leaves - dark green, long and sword-shaped. The underside is paler and may have a covering of tiny hairs.

Flowers - on a long flowering stalk which can grow to more than 1 m long. They are both male and female and are pale green. One of the petals is white and streaked with violet.

Fruits - pale green to yellow and elongated oval-shape. Each fruit has 3 chambers filled with small aromatic seeds, each about 3 mm long. The fruits and seeds dry to a straw-brown colour and are widely used as flavouring.

 Many "wild" kinds of cardamom grow in its native region, but they are not considered a substitute for true cardamom. Black cardamom is one of these wild relatives that became popular in its own right in certain cooking styles.

Types and distribution

The two main genera of the ginger family that are named as forms of cardamom are distributed as follows:

Elettaria (commonly called cardamom, green cardamom, or true cardamom) is distributed from India to Malaysia.

Amomum (commonly known as black cardamom, brown cardamom, Kravan, Java cardamom, Bengal cardamom, Siamese cardamom, white cardamom, or red cardamom) is distributed mainly in Asia and Australia.


Elettaria cardamomum is used as a food plant by the larva of the moth Endoclita hosei.


There were initially three natural varieties of green cardamom plants.
Malabar (Nadan/Native) – As the name suggests, this is the native variety of Kerala. These plants have panicles which grow horizontally along the ground.

Mysore – As the name suggests, this is a native variety of Karnataka. These plants have panicles which grow vertically upwards.

Vazhuka – This is a naturally occurring hybrid between Malabar and Mysore varieties, and the panicles grow neither vertically nor horizontally, but in between.

Recently, a few planters isolated high yielding plants and started multiplying them on a large scale. The most popular high yielding variety is "Njallani." Njallani, also known as "rup-ree-t", is a unique high-yielding cardamom variety developed by an Indian farmer.In  Idukki district of  Kerala another high yielding variety has been developed. This is a purely white flowered variety of Vazhuka type green cardamom having higher yield than Njallani. The variety has high adaptability to different shade conditions and can also be grown in waterlogged areas.


Green and black cardamom

Both forms of cardamom are used as flavorings in both food and drink, as cooking spices and as a medicine . Elettaria cardamomum (the usual type of cardamom) is used as a spice, a masticatory, and in medicine; it is also smoked sometimes.

Food and drink

Cardamom has a strong, unique taste, with an intensely aromatic, resinous fragrance. Black cardamom has a distinctly more smokey, though not bitter, aroma with a coolness some consider similar to mint.

Drinks made with Cardamom Spice Drinks

Iron Hindu Recipe
Apricot Brandy
Apricot Juice
Heavy Cream
Vanilla Schnapps 
Shake all ingredients (except cardamom) with plenty of ice and pour into a hurricane glass. Grind a moderate amount of green cardomom on top. (This is extremely important, and gives the drink it's characteristic purfume.) Garnish with fruit, and serve.

Masala Chai Recipe
Black Pepper
Tea Leaves

 Bring two cups of water to the boil. Add all the ingredients (except milk and sugar) and boil again for about 15 seconds. Let stand for one minute.

Green cardamom is one of the most expensive spices by weight, but little is needed to impart the flavor. Cardamom is best stored in pod form because once the seeds are exposed or ground they quickly lose their flavor. However, high-quality ground cardamom is often more readily (and cheaply) available and is an acceptable substitute. For recipes requiring whole cardamom pods, a generally accepted equivalent is 10 pods equals 1½ teaspoons of ground cardamom.

It is a common ingredient in Indian cooking and is often used in baking in Nordic countries, such as in the Finnish sweet bread pulla or in the Scandinavian bread Julekake. In the Middle East, green cardamom powder is used as a spice for sweet dishes as well as traditional flavouring in coffee and tea. Cardamom pods are ground together with coffee beans to produce a powdered mixture of the two, which is boiled with water to make coffee. Cardamom is used in some extent in savoury dishes. In some Middle Eastern countries, coffee and cardamom are often ground in a wooden mortar, a mihbaj, and cooked together in a skillet, a "mehmas," over wood or gas, to produce mixtures that are as much as forty percent cardamom.

Masala chai (spiced tea)

In South Asia, green cardamom is often used in traditional Indian sweets and in Masala chai (spiced tea). Black cardamom is sometimes used in garam masala for curries. It is occasionally used as a garnish in basmati rice and other dishes. It is often referred to as fat cardamom due to its size. Individual seeds are sometimes chewed and used in much the same way as chewing gum; it is  used  to neutralize the toughest breath odors." It has been known to be used for gin making.
Cardamom Plants

Cardamom as Medicine

Green cardamom is broadly used in South Asia to treat infections in teeth and gums, to prevent and treat throat troubles, congestion of the lungs and pulmonary tuberculosis, inflammation of eyelids and also digestive disorders. It also is used to break up kidney stones and gall stones, and was reportedly used as an antidote for both snake and scorpion venom.

Amomum is used as a spice and as an ingredient in traditional medicine in systems of the traditional Chinese medicine in China, in Ayurveda in India, Pakistan, Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Species in the genus Amomum are also used in traditional Indian medicine. Among other species, varieties and cultivars, Amomum villosum cultivated in China, Laos and Vietnam is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat stomach issues, constipation, dysentery, and other digestion problems. "Tsaoko" cardamom Amomum tsao-ko is cultivated in Yunnan, China and northwest Vietnam, both for medicinal purposes and as a spice. Increased demand since the 1980s, principally from China, for both Amomum villosum and Amomum tsao-ko has provided a key source of income for poor farmers living at higher altitudes in localized areas of China, Laos and Vietnam, people typically isolated from many other markets. Until recently, Nepal had been the world's largest producer of large cardamom. Guatemala has become the world's biggest producer and exporter of cardamom.

Black Cardamom is a spice belonging to the genus “Amomum”. They are well known for their strong astringent fragrance. Black cardamom is widely used in Asian cuisines.

Black Cardamom Scientific Name

Black cardamom spice is derived from two distinct species, the scientific names of which are “Amomum subulatum” and “Amomum costatum”.

Black Cardamom Alternative Names

This spice is also known by several other alternative names, some of which have been mentioned below:

Bengal cardamom
Indian cardamom
Nepal cardamom
Hill cardamom
Winged cardamom
Greater cardamom
Brown cardamom

Black Cardamom Description

Looks: The pods are 2 to 5 centimeters long, dark brown in color and covered with hairs. The rough outer surface of the pods is covered with wrinkles. Inside each pod there are almost 20 to 30 sticky seeds.
Black Cardamom Plants

Smell: Black cardamom has a fresh, strong aroma.

Taste: The pods have a distinct camphor-like flavor.

Black Cardamom Seeds

Black cardamom seeds have a dark brown appearance. They are known for their astringent aroma and camphor-like flavor. Both the pods and seeds are widely used in culinary dishes. They also have certain medicinal properties.

Black Cardamom Distribution

Black cardamom seeds are mainly cultivated in Asian countries such as Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bhutan, China and Vietnam.

Growing and Harvesting Black Cardamom seeds

Black cardamom is grown in tropical areas, wild zones and forest plantations. Partially trimmed tropical rain forests with some shade make the ideal grounds for cultivating these plants.
Cardamom Plants

The plants are harvested from October to December before they are fully mature. This helps in avoiding the splitting of capsules due to dehydration.

Black Cardamom Nutritional Facts

Black cardamom seeds have essential oils, the chemical constituents of which are listed below.

a-terpineol       45%
myrcene           27%
limonene            8%
menthone           6%
ß-phellandrene  3%
1,8-cineol           2%
sabinene             2%
heptane               2%

How to use Black Cardamom

Black cardamom can be used in cooking in the following ways:

Both the seeds and whole pods are used as spice in various dishes.
The seeds can be grounded and used in different recipes or they can be added whole.
Black cardamom can be fried or consumed raw.
It can be combined with several other spices while cooking.
Tender Cardamom Seeds

How to store Black Cardamom

The seeds and pods of black cardamom should be stored only in an airtight container. Storing them in dry conditions will keep them fresh for a year.

Black Cardamom vs. green cardamom

Black cardamom is frequently described in various sources as a low-level substitute for green cardamom, which is however untrue. Although both the spices are interchangeable, the black variety has a far stronger taste, while the green cardamom is preferred for its sweet, mellow fragrance.

Black Cardamom Uses

This spice finds its use in a variety of practical fields.

Culinary Uses

Black cardamom is a popular spice used in several types of food preparations. Here is a brief list illustrating the various ways in which these seeds can be used.

The leaves of the plant are cooked and consumed as greens.
The roots are boiled and eaten like potatoes.
Flowers are used as a garnishing agent in salads and other recipes.
The pods are often steam-cooked and added in pulses.

Black Cardamom is frequently included in several Indian sweet dishes and punches.

It is used as a flavoring agent in pickles and custard.
In India, it is used as a pan masala and added in betel leaf preparations.

Black Cardamom is an important ingredient in Scandinavian bakery products and Danish pastries.

It is an important spice used in the preparation of Biriyani.
In Sri Lankan cuisine, the pods are generally added to spicy beef and chicken curries.
When a small amount of this spice is added to coffee cakes, it produces a stimulating flavor.
Rice puddings, flans and porridges taste great with a pinch of black cardamom.
Black cardamom seeds are used to flavor tea.

Other Uses

There are some other uses of black cardamom seeds as well:

Black cardamom is frequently chewed as a mouth-freshener.
It is sometimes used in making jewelry after drying.
These seeds are also used in potpourri as a room freshener.

Black Cardamom Health Benefits

It has many health benefits.

Chewing black cardamom seeds helps to cure loss of appetite.
Black cardamom is also an important antidote to several health problems like bronchitis, colic, fatigue and stress.

Indians believe that black cardamom can cure obesity.
Consumption of this cardamom helps proper digestion.

Black Cardamom Medical Benefits

The various medical benefits of this spice are mentioned below:

Black cardamom is used as a carminative and a stimulant; it is effective in relieving indigestion and flatulence.

In India, Amomum subulatum is frequently used to cure dental problems and gum infections.
It can cure throat troubles, lung congestions and pulmonary tuberculosis.
Black cardamom is used to heal inflammation of eyelids.
It is used to treat digestive disorders.
The spice actively works as an antidote for scorpion and snake venom.
Black cardamom is used to treat halitosis.
It can heal respiratory problems like asthma and other types of respiratory spasms.
Black Cardamom seeds have anti-inflammatory properties and they help in the reduction of muscle spasms.

Black cardamom Recipes

Black cardamom is used in various recipes such as Finnish sweet bread pullas, Norwegian bread julekake and Indian masala tea. It is also an important ingredient in the preparation of different recipes like soups, casseroles, chowders and marinades. Other noteworthy recipes included Biriyanis, rice pudding, ginger fig chutney, cakes and payasam.

Black cardamom Interesting Facts

Here are some interesting facts about this spice.

Black cardamom is held in high esteem in the Arabian countries where Cardamom coffee is considered to be a symbol of prestige and hospitality.

The Arabians even considered black cardamom to be a potent aphrodisiac.
In Chinese medicine, it is claimed that black cardamom can cure numerous ailments.
Black cardamom is also used in aromatherapy as a stimulant.
The ancient Greeks and Romans fermented the crushed seeds of black cardamom to produce a strong perfume.
It was also an important ingredient in Ayurvedic medicine.

Cardamom Spice

Cardamom spice is a highly aromatic spice that is most commonly used in Eastern, Arab, and some Scandinavian cuisines. Its unique slightly sweet and savory flavor allows it to be combined with both sweet and savory dishes. Cardamom seed's ability to enhance so many types of food is why it is combined with a wide range of other ingredients from seafood to sauces, to meats, poultry, vegetables, and even desserts, pastries, and other baked goods.

Numerous flavorful little cardamom seeds are encased within a single cardamom pod that are green in color when fresh. Cardamom spice has a complex flavor that can be described as slightly sweet, floral, and spicy with citric elements. It leaves the tongue with a warm antiseptic sensation similar to eucalyptus with an additional peppery after taste. Some have described its flavor as spicy and cola-like. Grind cardamom from one of the whole forms of the spice to insure a superior flavor and aroma, both of which are quickly lost when the spice is pre ground.

Kinds of Cardamom Spice

Cardamom comes in several forms depending upon how the cardamom seed pods are treated:

Green cardamom pods are the preferred form of this spice in its native country, India. This fancier cardamom has been picked while still immature and sun-dried to preserve its bright green color. Green cardamom pods are harder to find and more expensive than the other forms of cardamom in part because of their superior ability to retain aroma and flavor longer. This premium form of cardamom is all connoisseurs will use in any recipe which calls for cardamom. Buy Now

Cardamom seed has had the outer pod, or cardamom fruit, removed so that only the pure seeds remain. This form of cardamom spice is sometimes called cardamom-decort, which simply means the seeds have been removed from the pods, or hulled. The seeds are crushed or ground prior to use, which provides plenty of cardamom flavor at a more economical price, substitute 12 seeds for every whole pod called for in a recipe.

Black cardamom is the seed pods of closely related species that also are aromatic and have an appearance similar to that of true cardamom. Although, black cardamom is not a suitable substitute in recipes that call for cardamom. Its flavor is much earthier with sweetness and a flowery accent that is different from that of true cardamom's. It is an ingredient used in some African cooking and abroad to add a bacon like flavor to some vegetarian dishes.

Ground cardamom is convenient to have for baking and other applications where the spice needs to be ground. Freshness and thus flavor are of course compromised when cardamom is pre ground because it loses flavor soon after grinding. To appreciate cardamom's true flavor we suggest grinding it before use in a spice mill, electric coffee grinder, or mortar and pestle.

White cardamom that was commonly available in the United States and Europe has been bleached to achieve its color, or lack of it. It has been used in baking and some desserts because its color helps keep light colored batters, sauces, and confections speck free. The bleaching process also destroyed much of the cardamom's flavor leading to white cardamom's decline in popularity.

Cardamom Seed Description

Cardamom Seeds are collected from the pod of a tropical perennial plant. They have a spicy sweet flavour and an aroma similar to eucalyptus. Use to flavour pastries, cakes, biscuits and fruit desserts. Traditionally used in Indian food, for authentic Indian rice, add a few seeds to the rice during cooking.

Origin and World Production

Southern India and Sri Lanka.
Indian cardamom is slightly smaller, but more aromatic.

Although India is the largest producer of cardamom, only a small share of the Indian production is exported because of the large domestic demand. The main exporting country is Guatemala, where cardamom cultivation has been introduced to less than a century ago and where all cardamom is grown for export.

There several related plants in genera Amomum, Aframomum and Alpinia, many of which have aromatic seeds; these may appear as cardamom substitute or adulteration, although the flavours of most of them differ markedly from true cardamom. Some of these have a eucalypt-like flavour worth dealing with in their own right while others are more pungent and almost peppery ; yet many of them are quite disagreeable. These “wild cardamoms” can hardly be used as a substitute for the real thing.

Thai cardamom, Amomum krervanh
Thai Cardamom

Two South East Asian species, however, should be mentioned because their flavour comes very close to true cardamom: Siam cardamom, Amomum krervanh Pierre ex Gagnep. is native to peninsular South East Asia. Its small, almost spherical pods are used in the cuisines of Thailand and Cambodia and imitate cardamom’s aroma pretty well. Another species, round cardamom (Jawa cardamom, Amomum compactum ), from Indonesia also has a good, cardamomy flavour. If cardamom is ever asked for in recipes from the indicated areas, the local varieties are meant; substitution by true cardamom is perfectly possible.

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