Home > Ayurveda > Indian Spices > Cardamom



The cardamom of trade is the dehydrated seasoned fruit from the capsules of the cardamom plant and is often passed on as the “Queen of Spices” for the reason of its very pleasant fragrance and taste. Cardamom is a perennial, herbaceous, rhizomatous plant and is recognized by its small seed pods, triangular in cross-section and spindle-shaped, with a thin, papery, outer shell and small black seeds. Based on the natural history of panicles, three varieties of cardamom are recognized in Malabar with face down panicle, Mysore with straight panicle, and Vazhukka with semi straight panicle. Plants of average size are about 2 to 3 meters high with juvenile leaves on the dorsal side and fruits globose in the case of the Malabar, whereas plant robust highs 3 to 4 meters with leaves glabrous on both sides with ovoid shells in the case of Mysore variety. Vazhukka range is a mix of both the above in physical characteristics. It is the world's third most pricey spice by weight.

Common Names
Elettaria cardamomum Maton is the scientific name of cardamom. It has common names in the languages of India. The common regional names of cardamom in different regions of India would be: In Hindi, Bengali it is called as Chhoti elachi. In Gujarati it is called as Elaychi. In Kannada as Yelakki. In Kashmiri as Aalbuduaal. In Malayalam as Elathari. In Marathi as Velchil. In Oriya as Alaichi. In Punjabi as Elaychi. In Sanskrit as Ela. In Tamil as Yelakkai or Elakkai. In Telugu as Yealak-Kayulu or Elakkayi. In Urdu as Ilaychi.

A lot of chronological Indian content mention cardamom as a flavoring agent and medicine. The medical compendium Charaka Samhita written amid of the 2nd century BC to 2nd century AD refers to it as a constituent of some preparations. Cardamom is also mentioned in Sanskrit manuscript of the 4th century BC in a thesis on political affairs called Kautilya's Arthashasthra and in Taitirriya Samhita where it is used in gifts during formal procedures.By this time the Greeks were trading in spices from the East which they called Ammom and kardamomon. Later Roman authors also famed two varieties, but it is not obvious from the descriptions whether they were the right cardamom that we recognize today.

In the 11th century in India cardamom was incorporated in the list of elements for panchasugandha-thambula or 'five-fragrance betel chew' in the Manasollasa or Book of Splendor. It was also incorporated in recipes from the court of the Sultan of Mandu dating from about 1500. These recipes comprise of sherbets and rice dishes flavored with cardamom. Exact cardamom became an object of trade with South Asia in the last thousand years when Arab traders brought it into extensive use. Exports from the Malabar shore, close to where cardamoms grew untamed were portrayed by the Portuguese traveler Barbosa in 1524. By the time of Garcia DA Orta in 1563 the worldwide trade in cardamoms was finely urbanized. Kerala continued to dominate the cardamom trade until the colonial era. It was bought by the Raja's administrators and a few of it were sold to Muslim merchants while the most excellent quality was sold abroad. In the 19th century British settlement established cardamom as a secondary crop in coffee agricultural estate in further parts of India.

Cardamom plants grow untamed in parts of the torrential rain forests of the Western Ghats in southern India. This area has been known as the Cardamom Hills, and in anticipation of just 200 years ago wild plants from these hills supplied the most of the world's supply of cardamom. The fruits have been sold and bought in India for at least 1000 years. Cardamom was known as the Queen of Spices, with black pepper being the King. The Leaves of the plant are dark green, long and sword-shaped. The underside is paler and may have a casing of tiny hairs. The Flowers of the plant are 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. The fruits of the plant are pale green to yellow in color and have elongated oval-shape. Each fruit has 3 cavity filled with small aromatic seeds, each about 3 mm long. The fruits and seeds dry to a straw-brown color and are widely used as flavoring.

All the forms of cardamom are used as flavoring agents in both food and drink, as cooking spices and as a medicine.

Cooking, Food and Drink
Cardamom has a physically powerful, inimitable taste, with a powerfully sweet-smelling, resinous fragrance. Black cardamom has a noticeably more smoky, though not bitter, smell, with a coolness. Some consider it similar to mint. Green cardamom is one of the expensive spices by mass, but slight amount is sufficient to impart its flavor. It is best stocked up in pod form because once the seeds are out in the open air then they hastily lose their flavor. However, high-quality earth cardamom is often more readily and cheaply available and is an adequate substitute. For recipes requiring whole cardamom pods, a generally conventional equivalent is 10 pods equal 1½ teaspoons of ground cardamom.

It is a widespread component 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 dust is used as a spice for sugary dishes, as well as a conventional flavoring in coffee and tea. Cardamom pods are ground together with coffee beans to make a powdered mixture of the two, which is boiled with water to make coffee. Cardamom is used to some extent in savory dishes. In some Middle Eastern nations, coffee and cardamom are habitually grounded in a wooden mortar, a mihbaj, and cooked together in a skillet, a mehmas, over wood or gas, to create mixtures as much as 40% cardamom.

In South Asia, green cardamom is frequently used in conventional Indian sweets and in masala Chai. Black cardamom is occasionally used in garam masala for curries. It is occasionally used as a garnishing agent in basmati rice and other dishes. It is often referred to as fat cardamom due to its dimension. An entity of seeds is sometimes chewed and used in much the same way as a chewing gum; it is even used by Wrigley's ('Eclipse Breeze Exotic Mint') where it states "with cardamom neutralize the toughest breath odors." It has been known to be used for gin making too.

Cardamom essential oil is created in small quantities in India. It is mainly used in the flavoring of processed foods and drinks such as cordials, bitters and liqueurs and occasionally in perfumery. Cardamom oleoresin has the same applications to the essential oil. It is mainly used to flavor meat products with a short shelf life, such as sausages. Because the oil has antibacterial action it has been added to foods as a additive at low levels. It is used in low quantities so it doesn't spoil the flavor of the food. Although not strictly a food use, the sweet-smelling properties of cardamom are utilized as a breath freshener. It is frequently chewed after mealtime and may sometimes be incorporated as a flavoring in a betel quid. It is also used to a small extent to flavor tobacco.

Green cardamom is largely used in South Asia to take care of infections in teeth and gums, to put a stop to and take care of throat troubles, congestion of the lungs and pulmonary tuberculosis, inflammation of eyelids and also digestive disorders. It is also used to shatter kidney stones and gall stones, and was apparently used as an antidote for both snake and scorpion venom. Amomum is used as a spice and as a component in conventional medicine in systems of the conventional Chinese medicine in China, in Ayurveda in India, Pakistan, Japan, Korea and Vietnam. It is also used in conventional Indian medicine.

In Ayurvedic medicine cardamom is used to take care of disorders of the stomach and urinary system, asthma, bronchitis and heart tribulations. When assorted with neem and camphor, cardamom is used as a nasal preparation to take care of colds. A mixture of cardamom can be used as a gargle to alleviate sore throats, which has led to its use in cough sweets. The conventional uses of cardamom to take care of skin conditions have engrossed the attention of those developing plant-based cosmetics, particularly as it has been used conventionally to treat areas of the body that have red-pigmentation. It is often incorporated into soaps and hand creams.

Growing Cardamom
A low-growing, leafy hot plant, which grows on the forest floor in the wild. Cardamom can only be developed indoors in our country. Cardamoms have even green leaves on long stalks, which are spicily aromatic when bruised. The leaves don't scent the same as the seeds, but can be used to enfold around fish, rice or vegetables add flavor during cooking. The lengthy stalks are useful to tie the leaves jointly to make a neat parcel of food. The cardamom pods sold for food preparation are picked when immature so the seeds will not grow if you try to implant them. Cardamoms won't stay alive outdoors even in summer.

It requires a frenzied greenhouse or an exceptionally warm, cool humid place inside a building, hot steamy bathrooms are ideal. Minimum temperature needed is 22°C, but it will tolerate a little cold for a short time if kept in a very dry state. Cardamoms can be finicky, they do not like draughts, unexpected changes of temperature or straight sunlight. Grow them in a temperate, humid, shady place, like a warm bathroom and vapor the plant daily with rain water. Alternatively, keep the pot on a big saucer of stones which are kept wet, to support a humid atmosphere around the plant. In winter, don't water as recurrently as during the summer. Feed with a foliage houseplant food when the plant is budding. Usually problem free but if the plants are too frosty their leaves turn brown. If stimulated to a heater place, with the brown leaves sliced off, they often regrow although this can be time-consuming. Keep the plant fairly dehydrated while it is getting better. If the leaves build up brown tips at any time even if the plant is kept temperate then it is a sign of overwatering.

Cardamom Cultivation in India