Cardamom
Overview
 


Cardamom refers to several plants of the genera Elettaria
Elettaria
Elettaria is a genus of one or two species of cardamoms, native to southeastern Asia from India south to Sri Lanka and east to Malaysia and western Indonesia, where it grows in tropical rainforests.-Species:...

and Amomum
Amomum
Amomum is a genus of plant, including several types of Cardamom, especially Black Cardamom. Plants of this genus are remarkable for their pungency and aromatic properties....

in the ginger
Ginger
Ginger is the rhizome of the plant Zingiber officinale, consumed as a delicacy, medicine, or spice. It lends its name to its genus and family . Other notable members of this plant family are turmeric, cardamom, and galangal....

 family Zingiberaceae
Zingiberaceae
Zingiberaceae, or the Ginger family, is a family of flowering plants consisting of aromatic perennial herbs with creeping horizontal or tuberous rhizomes, comprising ca. 52 genera and more than 1300 species, distributed throughout tropical Africa, Asia, and the Americas.Many species are important...

. Both genera are native to India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 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. Elettaria pods are light green while Amomum pods are larger and dark brown.
Encyclopedia


Cardamom refers to several plants of the genera Elettaria
Elettaria
Elettaria is a genus of one or two species of cardamoms, native to southeastern Asia from India south to Sri Lanka and east to Malaysia and western Indonesia, where it grows in tropical rainforests.-Species:...

and Amomum
Amomum
Amomum is a genus of plant, including several types of Cardamom, especially Black Cardamom. Plants of this genus are remarkable for their pungency and aromatic properties....

in the ginger
Ginger
Ginger is the rhizome of the plant Zingiber officinale, consumed as a delicacy, medicine, or spice. It lends its name to its genus and family . Other notable members of this plant family are turmeric, cardamom, and galangal....

 family Zingiberaceae
Zingiberaceae
Zingiberaceae, or the Ginger family, is a family of flowering plants consisting of aromatic perennial herbs with creeping horizontal or tuberous rhizomes, comprising ca. 52 genera and more than 1300 species, distributed throughout tropical Africa, Asia, and the Americas.Many species are important...

. Both genera are native to India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 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. Elettaria pods are light green while Amomum pods are larger and dark brown. The word cardamom is derived from the Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 cardamomum, the latinisation
Latinisation (literature)
Latinisation is the practice of rendering a non-Latin name in a Latin style. It is commonly met with for historical personal names, with toponyms, or for the standard binomial nomenclature of the life sciences. It goes further than Romanisation, which is the writing of a word in the Latin alphabet...

 of the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 καρδάμωμον (kardamomon), in turn from κάρδαμον (kardamon), "cress" + ἄμωμον (amomon), a kind of an Indian spice plant. The earliest attested form of the word kardamon is the Mycenaean Greek ka-da-mi-ja, written in Linear B
Linear B
Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, an early form of Greek. It pre-dated the Greek alphabet by several centuries and seems to have died out with the fall of Mycenaean civilization...

 syllabic script.

Types and distribution

The two main genera of the ginger family that are named as forms of cardamom are distributed as follows:
  • Elettaria
    Elettaria
    Elettaria is a genus of one or two species of cardamoms, native to southeastern Asia from India south to Sri Lanka and east to Malaysia and western Indonesia, where it grows in tropical rainforests.-Species:...

    (commonly called cardamom, green cardamom, or true cardamom) is distributed from India to Malaysia.
  • Amomum
    Amomum
    Amomum is a genus of plant, including several types of Cardamom, especially Black Cardamom. Plants of this genus are remarkable for their pungency and aromatic properties....

    (commonly known as black cardamom
    Black cardamom
    Black cardamom, also known as hill cardamom, Bengal cardamom, greater cardamom, Indian cardamom, Nepal cardamom, or winged cardamom, brown cardamom, thảo quả and tsao-ko) comes from either of two species in the family Zingiberaceae...

    , brown cardamom, Kravan, Java cardamom, Bengal cardamom, Siamese cardamom, white cardamom, or red cardamom) is distributed mainly in Asia
    Asia
    Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

     and Australia
    Australia
    Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

    .

Ecology

Elettaria cardamomum is used as a food plant by the larva
Larva
A larva is a distinct juvenile form many animals undergo before metamorphosis into adults. Animals with indirect development such as insects, amphibians, or cnidarians typically have a larval phase of their life cycle...

 of the moth
Moth
A moth is an insect closely related to the butterfly, both being of the order Lepidoptera. Moths form the majority of this order; there are thought to be 150,000 to 250,000 different species of moth , with thousands of species yet to be described...

 Endoclita hosei
Endoclita
Endoclita is a genus of moths of the family Hepialidae. There are 60 described species found in eastern and southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent.- Species :*E. aboe - India*E. absurdus - China*E. actinidae - China...

.

Varieties

There were initially three natural varieties of green cardamom plants.
  • Malabar (Nadan/Native) – As the name suggests, this is the native variety of Kerala
    Kerala
    or Keralam is an Indian state located on the Malabar coast of south-west India. It was created on 1 November 1956 by the States Reorganisation Act by combining various Malayalam speaking regions....

    . These plants have panicle
    Panicle
    A panicle is a compound raceme, a loose, much-branched indeterminate inflorescence with pedicellate flowers attached along the secondary branches; in other words, a branched cluster of flowers in which the branches are racemes....

    s which grow horizontally along the ground.
  • Mysore – As the name suggests, this is a native variety of Karnataka
    Karnataka
    Karnataka , the land of the Kannadigas, is a state in South West India. It was created on 1 November 1956, with the passing of the States Reorganisation Act and this day is annually celebrated as Karnataka Rajyotsava...

    . 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, Sebastian Joseph, at Kattappana
Kattappana
Kattappana ,a town nestling on the lap of the Sahyadri in Kerala, India is known as the spices capital of Kerala. It is the main commercial town in the high ranges of Idukki District and is situated 2660 feet above main sea level, in the High Ranges, the high altitude region of Kerala, India...

 in the South Indian state of Kerala
Kerala
or Keralam is an Indian state located on the Malabar coast of south-west India. It was created on 1 November 1956 by the States Reorganisation Act by combining various Malayalam speaking regions....

. K J Baby of Idukki district
Idukki district
Idukki district is one among the 14 districts of Kerala state, India. The district headquarters is located at in Painavu.It is the second least populous district in Kerala, after Wayanad .-Etymology:...

, Kerala has developed 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.

Uses

Both forms of cardamom are used as flavorings in both food and drink, as cooking spice
Spice
A spice is a dried seed, fruit, root, bark, or vegetative substance used in nutritionally insignificant quantities as a food additive for flavor, color, or as a preservative that kills harmful bacteria or prevents their growth. It may be used to flavour a dish or to hide other flavours...

s 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.

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
Baking
Baking is the technique of prolonged cooking of food by dry heat acting by convection, and not by radiation, normally in an oven, but also in hot ashes, or on hot stones. It is primarily used for the preparation of bread, cakes, pastries and pies, tarts, quiches, cookies and crackers. Such items...

 in Nordic countries
Nordic countries
The Nordic countries make up a region in Northern Europe and the North Atlantic which consists of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden and their associated territories, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland...

, such as in the Finnish sweet bread pulla
Pulla
Pulla is a mildly-sweet Finnish dessert bread flavored with crushed cardamom seeds and occasionally raisins or sliced almonds. Braid loaves are formed from three or more braided strands of dough. The braids may also be formed into a ring. These braided strands or rings are typically coated with...

 or in the Scandinavian bread Julekake. In the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far 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
Mihbaj
A mihbaj is a traditional Bedouin implement, made of a wooden base with a foot-long pestle, that serves both as a coffee grinder and as a percussion instrument. It is one of the few instruments used in Bedouin music....

, and cooked together in a skillet, a "mehmas," over wood or gas, to produce mixtures that are as much as forty percent cardamom.

In South Asia, green cardamom is often used in traditional Indian sweets
Indian sweets
South Asian Sweets are a unique type of confectionary in Indian, Pakistani and other South Asian cuisines. The Hindi-Urdu word used to refer to sweets and confectionary is mithai. South Asian sweets are made with sugar, milk and condensed milk, and cooked by frying. The bases of the sweets and...

 and in Masala chai (spiced tea)
Masala chai
Masala chai is a beverage from the Indian subcontinent made by brewing tea with a mixture of aromatic Indian spices and herbs.-Terminology:-Plain chai:...

. Black cardamom is sometimes used in garam masala
Garam masala
Garam masala is a blend of ground spices common in North Indian and other South Asian cuisines. It is used alone or with other seasonings. The word garam refers to intensity of the spices rather than capsaicin content...

 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 even used by Wrigley's ('Eclipse Breeze Exotic Mint') where it states "with cardamom to neutralize the toughest breath odors." It has been known to be used for gin making.

Traditional 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
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

, 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
Antidote
An antidote is a substance which can counteract a form of poisoning. The term ultimately derives from the Greek αντιδιδοναι antididonai, "given against"....

 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
Traditional Chinese medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine refers to a broad range of medicine practices sharing common theoretical concepts which have been developed in China and are based on a tradition of more than 2,000 years, including various forms of herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage , exercise , and dietary therapy...

 in China
Traditional Chinese medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine refers to a broad range of medicine practices sharing common theoretical concepts which have been developed in China and are based on a tradition of more than 2,000 years, including various forms of herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage , exercise , and dietary therapy...

, in Ayurveda
Ayurveda
Ayurveda or ayurvedic medicine is a system of traditional medicine native to India and a form of alternative medicine. In Sanskrit, words , meaning "longevity", and , meaning "knowledge" or "science". The earliest literature on Indian medical practice appeared during the Vedic period in India,...

 in India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

, Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, Korea
Korea
Korea ) is an East Asian geographic region that is currently divided into two separate sovereign states — North Korea and South Korea. Located on the Korean Peninsula, Korea is bordered by the People's Republic of China to the northwest, Russia to the northeast, and is separated from Japan to the...

 and Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

. Species in the genus Amomum are also used in traditional Indian medicine
Ayurveda
Ayurveda or ayurvedic medicine is a system of traditional medicine native to India and a form of alternative medicine. In Sanskrit, words , meaning "longevity", and , meaning "knowledge" or "science". The earliest literature on Indian medical practice appeared during the Vedic period in India,...

. 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
Constipation
Constipation refers to bowel movements that are infrequent or hard to pass. Constipation is a common cause of painful defecation...

, dysentery
Dysentery
Dysentery is an inflammatory disorder of the intestine, especially of the colon, that results in severe diarrhea containing mucus and/or blood in the faeces with fever and abdominal pain. If left untreated, dysentery can be fatal.There are differences between dysentery and normal bloody diarrhoea...

, and other digestion problems. "Tsaoko" cardamom Amomum tsao-ko is cultivated in Yunnan
Yunnan
Yunnan is a province of the People's Republic of China, located in the far southwest of the country spanning approximately and with a population of 45.7 million . The capital of the province is Kunming. The province borders Burma, Laos, and Vietnam.Yunnan is situated in a mountainous area, with...

, China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 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
Nepal
Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

 had been the world's largest producer of large cardamom. Guatemala
Guatemala
Guatemala is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, Belize to the northeast, the Caribbean to the east, and Honduras and El Salvador to the southeast...

has become the world's biggest producer and exporter of cardamom, with an export total of US$137.2 million for 2007.
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