Botanical Name: Elettaria Cardamom

Family: Maton Zingiberaceae

Hindi Name: Choti Elaichi

Among the producers of cardamom, South India and Sri Lanka have the maximum output along with Guatemala, that has become the most important producer today.

In India, it is mainly grown in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka on the shady slopes of the Western Ghats. Known as the 'Queen of Spices' , Cardamom is the dried fruit of a herbaceous perennial. Warm, humid climate, loamy soil rich in organic matter, distributed rainfall, special cultivation and processing methods all combine to make Indian cardamom truly unique in aroma, flavour, size and colour.

The plant grows to a height of 2-5 metres The underground rhizome is the real stem, and the aerial shoot is encircled by leaf sheaths. The leaves are long, and flowers emerge from the underground stem on long floral stalks. Each fruit capsule contains about 10 - 15 seeds, and is about 1.5 cms long. The fruit capsule is pale green to yellow in colour, somewhat oval in shape. The flowers are about 4 cm long, and white or pale green, borne in long bunches. The taste of cardamom is bitingly pungent in a way but full of fragrance.

Its composition is as follows:

  • Volatile oil: 5.5-10.5 %
  • Ash: 3.8-6.9 %
  • Fibre: 6.7-12.8 %
  • Protein: 7-14 %
  • Starch: 39-49.5 %
  • Calcium: 0.3 %
  • Phosphorus: 0.21 %
  • Sodium: 0.01 %
  • Potassium: 1.2 %
  • Iron: 0.01 %
  • Thiamine: 46.6 mg/100g
  • Riboflavin: 0.23 %
  • Niacin: 2.0 mg/100g
  • Ascorbic Acid: 12 mg/ 100g
  • Vit A: 175 IU

Although cardamom is little valued in Western countries, it is among the oldest spices, very popular in Sri Lanka, India, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Most of the Indian, Sri Lankan and Arab cuisines add cardamom to their rice dishes like biryani and several meat dishes.

It is also a popular spice in northern and eastern Africa, where the population is predominantly Arabic. In Sri Lanka, the pods of cardamom are added to fiery beef or chicken curries to have the extravagant aroma of cardamom and its flavour. The Indian cardamom has a history as old as human civilisation and today is among the most exotic and highly prized spices.

It is slightly smaller than the other varieties, but is more aromatic. In the Scandinavian countries, cardamom is used for cookies, sweet breads, pastries and sausages. Cardamom-flavoured sweets are found all over the Indian subcontinent.

Tinctures of cardamom are used in medicines for flatulence and digestion. Cardamom is a breath freshener, and gives flavour to tea. It is used as an infusion for gargling and hiccup. It is used for perfumery and pharmaceutical purposes. It is useful as a tincture and a stimulant.

It is used for flavouring cakes and liquors, and forms part of curry powder mixtures used in cookery. It is carminative, stimulant and aromatic. Chewing cardamom is good for colic and headaches. Eating a cardamom with a tablespoon of honey daily improves eyesight.

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