In this article we will discuss about:- 1. History of Cardamom 2. Distribution and Cultivation of Cardamom 3. Propagation 4. Harvesting 5. Drying and Curing 6. Chemical Composition.
- History of Cardamom
- Distribution and Cultivation of Cardamom
- Propagation of Cardamom
- Harvesting of Cardamom
- Drying and Curing with Cardamom
- Chemical Composition of Cardamom
1. History of Cardamom:
Elettaria cardamomum Maton; English—Lesser cardamom, cardamom; Hindi—Chhoti elaichi; Bengali—Ilachi; Gujarati—elachi; Punjabi—Illachi; Mumbai—Malabari elachi; Marathi— Velloda-, Tamil—Ellakay, aila-cheddi, elakaya, Telugu—Ellakay, elaki chettu, ela-kaya; Kannada—Yalakki, yelaki, yerakki; Sanskrit—Prith weeka, chundruvala, ela, bahoola-. Family— Zingiberaceae.
This is a tall herbaceous perennial, with branching subterranean rootstock, from which arise a number of upright leafy shoots, 5-18 feet high, bearing alternate, elliptical or lanceolate sheathing leaves, 1-3 feet long.
Flowers borne in panicles 2-4 feet long, arising from the base of vegetative shoots; panicles upright throughout their length or upright at first and ultimately pendent or prostrate; flowers about 1.5 inches long, white or pale green in colour with a central lip streaked with violet, borne in a close series on the rachis; bisexual.
Fruits trilocular capsules, fusiform to ovoid, pale green to yellow in colour, containing 15-20 hard, brownish black, angled and rugose seeds, covered by a thin mucilaginous membrane.
It is native of the moist evergreen forests of South India, growing wild in the Western Ghats, between 2,500 and 5,000 feet. It is found wherever the overhead canopy has been thinned. It is also found along stream banks, where the overhead shade is less dense.
There are two varieties: I.E. cardamomum van major Thw. comprising all the wild races and 2. E. cardamomum var. minor Watt. (syn. E. cardamomum var. minuscula Burkill) comprising all the cultivated races, particularly those included under the names Malabar and Mysore cardamoms. Variety major is the more primitive variety from which the cultivated variety minor is derived. The minor variety is commonly grown in India.
Malabar cardamom is characterised by a short leafy shoot, rarely exceeding 9 feet in height, leaves 1-1.5 feet long, hairy on the under-surface; panicles 2-3 feet long and prostrate; fruits globose, rounded or ovoid and lightly ribbed. It is chiefly cultivated in Mysore and Coorg, and to some extent in Travancore.
Mysore cardamom is characterised by robust growth, leafy stem, upto 17 feet high, and large leaves with smooth underside; panicles erect; fruit fusiform, three-angled and ribbed. It is cultivated mainly in Travancore, Annamalai and Nelliampathy hills.
2. Distribution and Cultivation of Cardamom:
It is usually cultivated in those regions which form the natural habitat of the species. They are chiefly cultivated in Kerala, Mysore, Maharashtra, Assam, Sikkim and Tamil Nadu.
The mode of cultivation varies considerably in different regions. The Mysore system of cultivation is the most important for commercial production and accounts for about 90% of the total cardamom crop in India.
This type consists in clearing selected areas of jungle land of all undergrowth, thinning out the overhead shade, planting cardamom seedlings at regular distances and cultivating according to a regular schedule. In Mysore, cardamom is planted mostly on the margins of ravines.
The cultivation of cardamoms is confined to regions with an annual rainfall of 60-130 in., a temperature range of 50-95°F and an altitude of 2,000 to 5,000 feet. It grows on a variety of soils. Under ravine cultivation in Mysore, cardamom attains good growth in pockets of soil among boulders, even though the soil is not deep. The soil should be moist and well drained.
It thrives best under moderate natural shade. When inter-planted in coffee and arecanut plantations, shade is indirectly provided by coffee plants and areca palms.
Where cardamom is cultivated on a plantation scale in virgin forest areas, the initial work consists in clearing all undergrowth and thinning out the overhead canopy in order to obtain an even density of shade. Pits are dug in cleared land for planting cardamom seedlings. The usual size of the pit is 2′ x 2′ x 1-1/2′ deep.
The spacing between pits varies from 5 feet to 10 feet in different areas. The spacing depends on the type of cardamom grown and also on the natural fertility of the soil. In richer soils, the spacing is about 12 feet each way however, it is much less in poor soil. The spacing for Mysore cardamom ranges from 8 to 10 feet each way, while for Malabar cardamom it is 6 ft. X 6 ft.
3. Propagation of Cardamom:
Cardamom is propagated either vegetatively by division of rhizomes or by seedling transplantation. Rhizomes from large clumps of growing plants are taken out, separated into small clumps, each consisting of atleast one old and one young shoot and planted in prepared pits. The method, however, is unsatisfactory for planting large areas as the number of rhizomes obtainable is limited.
Propagation by seedlings is common adopted in North Kanara, Mysore, Coorg, Tamil Nadu and Travancore-Cochip. Seedlings which come up spontaneously in jungle clearings and those which occur in old cardamom plantings are collected and planted in prepared nursery beds until they are required for planting in permanent positions.
The seeds may be sown broadcast in favourable positions on cleared land and transplanted into permanent positions when they are sufficiently developed. The sowing time is usually August-October in Coorg, Mysore and North Kanara, and February-March in Tamil Nadu.
Seeds germinate in 6-7 weeks after sowing. Seed beds are prepared on raised ground and seeds are sown broadcast and covered with soft earth. Nurseries are generally opened near stream with abundant water.
The beds are not shaded from the sun until after the seedlings appear. Low pandals are put up, 4-5 feet above the beds to provide shade for seedlings. Seedlings when 3-4 months old are transplanted 6-18 in. apart in nursery beds.
Seedlings are usually kept in the nursery for about two years. The time of planting out seedlings is June-July, before the onset of monsoon rains. Generally two seedlings are planted in each pit, one of which is later used for filling up gaps in the plantation. Frequent weeding’s are necessary in the first two years to prevent young cardamom plants from being choked up.
4. Harvesting of Cardamom:
Cardamom comes into bearing in three years after planting, which may be the fourth or fifth year after sowing. Flowering commences in April-May and continues till July- August flowers may be seen almost throughout the year.
The peak flowering period is May-June and as flowers appear for long, fruits ripen irregularly at intervals necessitating several pickings. Fruits are gathered at intervals of 30-40 days. Only those fruits which are just to ripe are picked.
This is necessary to prevent capsules from splitting on the drying floors. If picked in the under-ripe stage the fruits shrink on drying and have a shriveled appearance. Individual fruits are picked with the peduncle and each clump has to be periodically visited to gather the fruits.
The first crop obtained in the third or fourth year is usually small, higher and sustained yields are obtained in subsequent years upto the tenth or fifteenth year, depending upon the type cultivated, after which the plants become exhausted.
5. Drying and Curing with Cardamom:
The fruits are dried after harvesting either in the sun on barbecues of beaten earth or by artificial heat in drying houses.
Artificial drying takes about 48 hours and cardamoms so dried retain their green colour, which is much liked in European and American markets Sun drying, on the other hand, takes 3-5 days, but the mucilaginous coats on the seeds remain intact in sun-dried capsules and the seeds possess a characteristic sweetish aroma.
A certain amount of bleaching also takes place during sun-drying and the capsules attain a straw colour. Dried capsules are hand-rubbed and winnowed to remove stalks, calyces and foreign matter, and then bagged.
The average yield of dry capsules from a well maintained cardamom estate is 100-150 lb. per acre.
Uses of Cardamom:
Cardamom is used as a spice and masticatory, and in medicine. The seeds possess a pleasant aroma and a characteristic, warm, slightly pungent taste. It is used for flavouring curries% cakes bread and for other culinary purposes. It is also used for flavouring liqueurs. In the Arab countries, cardamom is used for flavouring coffee and tea. In medicine, it is used as an aromatic, stimulant, carminative and flavouring agent.
The cardamom capsules contain-Moisture 20%; protein 10.2%; ether extract 2.2% mineral matter 5 4% crude fibre 20.1% carbohydrate 42.1% calcium 0.13% phosphorous 0.16% iron 5.0 mg/ 100 g. The seeds of cardamom contain 2-8% volatile oil. Seeds of green cardamom yield appreciably more oil than those of bleached cardamom.
6. Chemical Composition of Cardamom:
Moisture 8.3%; volatile oil 8.3%; total ash 3.7%;non-volatile ether extract 2.9%; crude fibre 9.2%; crude protein 10.3%; calcium 0.3%; phosphorus 0.21%; sodium 0.01%; potassium 1.2%; iron 0.012%; vitamin B, (thiamine) 0.18 mg/100 g; vitamin B (riboflavin) 0.23 mg/100 g; vitamin C (ascorbic acid) 12.0 mg/100 g; niacin 2.3 mg/100 g; vitamin A 175 International Units (I.U.) per 100 g. of seeds.
Cardamom oil of commerce is obtained by the distillation of the whole fruits of cardamomum. The cardamom oil is a colourless or pale yellow liquid with a penetrating, camphoraceous odour and a strong pungent taste. The main constituents of the oil are – cineol, terpineol, terpinene, limonene, sabinene and terpineol in the form of formic and acetic esters. Cardamom oil is used in flavouring beverages.
The chief importing countries of Indian cardamom are – Arabia, Sweden, U.K., U.S.A Germany and Middle East countries.