Cardamom / Elettaria cardamomum L is popularly known as the queen of spices. It is an important spice in India and is called by many names such as Ilaichi, Elaichi, Elakulu, Elakka, Elakki, Elakkay, Velchi, Elachi, etc. Cardamom is the dried fruit of a perennial plant and belongs to the Zigniberaceae family.
It is cultivated in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Cardamom is used as a flavoring in food, confectionery, beverages and liquors. Each cardamom pod contains the cardamom seeds inside it in a bunch and usually, the skin is peeled and the inner seeds are used by powdering them. Cardamom is available in the market in the powdered form as well. It is known to relieve acidity and mouth ulcers. Some popular varieties of cardamom grown in India are Mudigere-1, CCS-1, PV-1, ICRI-1, ICRI-2, and SKP-14. Cardamom comes in small and large sizes and India is the second largest producer of small cardamom. The large variety is black in color as compared to the light green of the small variety. The black cardamom or Kali Elaichi is a lot more aromatic than its small counterpart.
Cardamom is an expensive spice due to its rich flavor and aroma and is in great demand across the world. As mentioned earlier, the dried part of the fruit is used for culinary purposes. It can be used in most dishes as a flavoring such as in pulaos, biryanis, gravies, curries, sweets, desserts, juices, smoothies, and even your regular morning tea. The dried fruit is called the capsule. It is known to be good for digestion and acts as an antioxidant as well.
Small cardamom is a sought-after spice in the Middle East market. In the organic cultivation of cardamom, the methods to be followed should conform to the standards laid down for the purpose. An isolation belt of at least 25 m wide is to be left from all around the conventional plantation. The produce from this area cannot be treated as organic. A conversion period of three years is required for an existing plantation for organic cultivation. For replanted and new planted areas, the produce from the fourth year onwards only can be considered as organic produce. If organically produced planting materials are used and if at least two years have elapsed without the use of any inorganic inputs in the field before planting, the yield from such a crop shall be considered as organic.
Typically commercial cardamom is cultivated in the Western Ghats hilly tracts. Cardamom can easily grow at altitudes of 1500 m above sea level. It is usually propagated by seeds although vegetative propagation is considered a better choice. Cardamom grows well in soils that are rich in organic matter.
Image source – indianspices.com
Image source – agricare.kisanhelp.in
Image source – spicetrekkers.com
Process of growing cardamom
⦁ Climatic conditions
Cardamom plants are grown in the Western Ghats hilly tracts. They grow in a temperature range of 10 – 35 °C. Small cardamom requires an annual rainfall of 1500 – 4000 mm. The crop can be grown at an altitude of 1500 m above sea level. The best time to plant cardamom is the monsoon season from June – July. Light drizzle and cloudy days are best suited for cultivation.
⦁ Seed rate and spacing
Small cardamom can be propagated by seeds or vegetative propagation. The latter is considered more efficient. Choose seeds that disease-free. In the commercial cultivation of small cardamom, micro-propagation using tissue culture technique can be practiced. Small cardamom seedlings are raised in nursery beds for 10 – 18 months and then moved to the main field. If growing organically, then tissue culture method cannot be used. If rhizomes are used as planting material, then organic methods should be followed.
Seeds can be treated with Trichoderma culture. If growing polybag seedlings, VAM and Trichoderma can be used. If the growth of the seedlings is not adequate, vermiwash can be sprayed once a month.
One mature sucker, along with a young growing shoot can be planted in a pit and covered with mulch. Deep planting must be avoided. Seedlings can be planted up to collar region in the pit. Planting in trenches across the slopes in low rainfall areas, diagonal planting and mulching the soil will help in soil and water conservation.
Pits of 45 cm x 45 cm x 30 cm size are dug in April and filled with FYM and topsoil. If the field is sloppy, contour terraces are made and pits are made along the contours. The normal spacing is 2 x 1 m and the Malabar type spacing is 2 x 2 m between plants. In Kerala, 2 x 3 m spacing is adopted. The Malabar type spacing is adopted in Karnataka.
Seedlings can be raised in primary and secondary nurseries. Raised beds are prepared after digging the land to 30 – 45 cm. Beds of 1m width and convenient length raised to a height of 30 cm are prepared. Humus-rich forest soil is applied and seeds from ripe capsules are used. 1 kg seeds produce 5000 seedlings. It takes a month to germinate. After that, the mulch is removed.
⦁ Land preparation and irrigation
Before planting cardamom, fast-growing shade trees like cedar, balangi, and elangi can be planted in the main field as cardamom requires shade. The main field is prepared by supplementing with organic matter and clearing the undergrowth. Deep black loam soil with high humus content found in the forest region is best suited for cultivation. It also grows on laterite soils, clay loams and rich black soils having good drainage. Sandy soil is not suitable for cultivation of cardamom.
Manuring @ 90 g nitrogen (N), 60 g phosphorus (P2O5) and 120 g potash (K2O) per bed of 5m x 1m size, in three equal split doses at an interval of 45 days is recommended to produce healthier seedlings. The first dose of fertilizer may be applied 30 days after transplanting in the secondary nursery.
Seedlings are planted up to the collar region. A fertilizer dose of 75 kg nitrogen (N), 75 kg phosphorus (P2O5) and 150g potash (K2O) per ha is recommended under irrigated condition for high yielding plantation yielding 100 kg/ha and above and a dose of 30:60:30 kg/ha is recommended for gardens under rainfed condition. Organic manures like compost or cattle manure may be given @ 5 kg per clump. Fertilizer is applied in two split doses. The first application during May will help in the production of suckers and development of capsules and the second application during the late September will help the initiation of panicles and sucker. Only half the dose of fertilizer is to be applied during the first year and a full dose is given from second year onwards. Application of fertilizer is done at a radius of 30 cm and covered with a thin layer of soil.
In order to overcome the dry spell during summer, it is necessary to irrigate the crop to get maximum production as it helps in the initiation of panicles, flowering and fruit set. They may be irrigated at an interval of 10 – 15 days till the onset of monsoon. Avoid applying fertilizers in heavy rains. Ensure the soil has good moisture level at all times. Overhead irrigation is best suited for cardamom as also drip irrigation method.
⦁ Weed management and pest control
3 – 4 rounds of weedings are done in May – June, Aug – Sept, and Dec – Jan. The plants must be mulched on a regular basis. Removal of old and drying shoots should be carried out annually with monsoon under rainfed conditions. Clean weeding is to be limited to the plant bases (50 cm) and the inter-rows are to be maintained by slash weeding. The weeded materials should be used for mulching. Trashed materials and fallen leaves may also be used for mulching. Trashing the dry leaves and leaf sheaths as well as removal of yielded old suckers along with rhizomes may be carried out once in a year about a month after completion of final harvest which can be used for composting. The inter-rows should not be dug at any cost.
Major fungal diseases affecting cardamom are azhukal and clump rot. Incorporation of Trichoderma multiplied in the suitable organic medium in the plant base (1 kg per clump) prior to the onset of monsoon season (May) is a prophylactic operation for clump rot disease. Use of Bordeaux mixture 1 % when found necessary can be adopted.
Regular rouging of virus affected plants should be made to reduce the spread. Rouged plants should be destroyed by burning.
Removal of drooping dry leaves, dry leaf sheath, old panicles and other dry plant parts is an important sanitation method recommended for reducing the pest inoculum in the plantation.
Mechanical collection and destruction of egg masses of pests, larvae of hairy caterpillar and beetles of root grub are other approaches to reducing the pest damage.
As soon as boreholes of stem borer are noticed, injection of Bacillus thuringiensis preparation into the borehole (0.5 ml in 10 ml water) will kill the larva so that subsequent resurgence can be reduced.
White-flies can be controlled by collecting the adults using yellow sticky trap and control of nymphs by spraying neem oil with soft soap made out of minimum caustic soda (500 ml neem and 500 g soft soap in 100 liters of water) is to be followed. White-flies can be avoided if organic methods of cultivation are adopted.
Nematodes can be controlled with the application of crushed neem seed.
Thrips can be controlled with the application of fish oil rosin soap. Malabar varieties are found to be tolerant to thrips to a certain extent.
Regular surveillance is absolutely essential for timely detection and adoption of remedial measures against the pests affecting cardamom. For further issues, please contact your local horticulturist.
Cardamom plants start bearing fruits in the 2nd or 3rd year of plantation. The fruits mature @ 35 – 45 days interval with 5 – 6 pickings. Harvesting is done in Oct – Nov. cardamom yields 450 – 500 kg/ha but the yield can vary based on climatic conditions, soil type, etc.
After harvesting, the freshly harvested capsules need to be cleaned from dirt. Curing of cardamom capsules is done by reducing the moisture from 80% to 8-12% at an optimum temperature by retaining green color to the maximum extent. Cardamom can be cured by two methods, namely sun drying and machine drying. In the sun drying method, Cardamom is directly dried under the sunlight. Sun drying generally requires 5 – 6 days. In the other method, cardamom is dried using electrical or fuel kiln. Only fallen trees and lopped branches should be used as fuel. The hot smoke passes through the pipes bringing the room temperature to 45 – 50 °C. This temperature is maintained for 3 to 4 hours. At this stage, capsules sweat and give off moisture.
The whole process of curing takes about 28 – 36 hours. In general, quality of capsules cured by this method is very good. Community curing is cheap and less polluting. Picking is carried out at an interval of 15 – 25 days. Ripe capsules are harvested in order to get maximum green color during curing. Cardamom has an amazing shelf life and can be stored at room temperature. They are usually stored in airtight containers to retain the aroma.
⦁ Benefits of cardamom
⦁ Cardamom fights bad breath and mouth ulcers
⦁ It relieves acidity and improved digestion
⦁ It works as an antioxidant and helps fight anemia
⦁ It also helps lower blood pressure as it has diuretic properties
⦁ The dark brown seeds are known for their medicinal values particularly so because of their nutrient content (volatile oils, calcium, iron, etc.)
⦁ Because of its antioxidant properties, it is known to promote heart health
⦁ It aids in cancer prevention
⦁ Cardamom is known to prevent blood clots
⦁ It helps fight depression
⦁ Cardamom aids in the treatment of diabetes
⦁ It improves appetite
⦁ Cardamom is a proven aphrodisiac and improves sexual health
⦁ It can be used to treat hiccups and sore throat issues
⦁ It helps improve skin complexion and treats skin allergies
⦁ It imparts fragrance and works as a great masking agent
⦁ Cardamom also nourishes the scalp and improved hair health
⦁ Nutritional value of cardamom
As per Wikipedia
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 7 g 10%
Saturated fat 0.7 g 3%
Polyunsaturated fat 0.4 g
Monounsaturated fat 0.9 g
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Sodium 18 mg 0%
Potassium 1,119 mg 31%
Total Carbohydrate 68 g 22%
Dietary fiber 28 g 112%
Protein 11 g 22%
Vitamin A 0% Vitamin C 35%
Calcium 38% Iron 77%
Vitamin D 0% Vitamin B-6 10%
Vitamin B-12 0% Magnesium 57%