|Latin Name : Elettaria cardamomum Maton|
|Family : Zingiberaceae (Ginger Family)|
|Common names : Small Cardamom, Lesser Cardamom, True Cardamom, Malabar Cardamom, Green Cardamom|
Native to India, Cardamom is a herbaceous perennial plant belonging to the ginger family. Its dried fruit referred to as the queen of spices, is one of the most exotic and highly prized spices in the world. It is found commonly in southern India mainly in Kerala, Tamilnadu and Karnataka, on the shady slopes of the western Ghats. Today, Cardamom is also cultivated in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Mexico, Thailand and Central America. Cardamom acts as a mouth-freshener, has well established culinary values, and is used in a wide range of sweets and confectionery. It is an important ingredient of garam masala, a combination spice for many vegetarian and non-vegetarian Indian dishes. Tea and coffee made with cardamom are pleasantly aromatic and refreshing. The oil contained in the seeds and pods are used in perfumes and as a stimulant.
This bushy herb will grow to a height of 6 to10 feet with erect shoots from a thick, underground rootstock. The shoots bear two rows of dark green leaves each about 2 inches long. The leaves are long, alternate and lance-shaped. The small, yellowish flowers are borne on panicles and they emerge directly from the underground stem on long floral stalks. The fruit are ovoid or oblong, greenish-brown capsules containing about 15-20 seeds attached to axial placenta. The seeds have a warm, slightly pungent and highly aromatic flavour.Propagation, Planting and Harvesting
Cardamom is propagated vegetatively by division of the rhizomes or by seeds. For vegetative propagation, rhizomes from large clumps of growing plants are taken out, separated into small clumps and planted in prepared pits. Seeds may be collected from well ripened fruits from a healthy mature plant at least five years old. They may be washed and sown immediately or they can be mixed with ash and dried for a week before sowing. They can be sown in deep rich soil prepared with well rotted organic matter, on raised beds. The plant prefers loamy soils rich in organic matter, which are usually acidic in nature with a pH range of 5.0 to 6.5. It thrives best under moderate shade. The seeds germinate 5-7 weeks after sowing and are ready to be transplanted when they reach a height of 25-30 cm and develop a couple of leaves. Plant them 6-18 inches apart in small pits not too deep. Seedlings should be supported by stakes and mulched. Water to keep the beds moist, too much watering is not good. Spray occasionally with Bordeaux mixture to prevent fungal attack.
Regular weeding, removal of old and dying leafy shoots, mulching, regulating the shade, manuring, application of fertilizer and irrigation are essential for their proper growth. Cardomoms grow abundantly in altitudes ranging from 900 to 1370 m above sea level, with a warm humid atmosphere and evenly distributed rainfall. Planting is usually done in June- July. The plants prefers shade.
Cardamoms start bearing capsules three years after planting, which may be the fourth or fifth year after sowing. Flowering commences in April-May and continues till July-August. Capsules just short of full ripeness are harvested in October-November in most of the areas, usually at intervals of 30-40 days. Harvested fruits are dried by exposing them to sun light or by heating or by flue curing. Capsules which lack uniform green colour are bleached by using bleaching powder, sulphur dioxide or hydrogen peroxide. After the first crop, higher and sustained yields are obtained in subsequent years up to the tenth or fifteenth year, depending on the type cultivated, after which the plants become exhausted.Problems and Care
Cardamom plants are affected by a number of diseases caused by virus, fungi and bacteria. Katte (viral) Disease is one of the major diseases of cardamom. Diseased plants cannot be cured but the losses can be minimized by using healthy seedlings, repeating tracing of affected plants and rouging at weekly intervals for at least 4 consecutive months, avoiding rhizome planting using materials taken from disease affected gardens. Chenthal is another disease seen in almost all areas of cardamom cultivation. The intensity of the disease can be reduced by providing adequate shade in the plantations. Various types of leaf spots are found to affect the leaves. Application of Fungicides effectively control the disease.
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