Cardamom is known as Queen of spices and it is a native of India. It is known as Elaichi in Hindi, Yelakki in Kannada, Ela or Ellka in Sanskrit and the botanical name is Elettaria cardamomum. Cardamom belongs to Zingiberaceae family.
Guatemala is the biggest producer and exporter of Cardamom in the world followed by India.
Cardamom plants belong to the genera Elettria, which is Green Cardamom (Chota Elaichi) and Amomum, which is Black Cardamom (Bada Elaichi). It is the world’s third-most expensive spice after Vanilla and Saffron.
Green Cardamom is native to the evergreen forests of Western Ghats in South India. They grow at 600 to 1500 meters above sea level.
Black Cardamom is cultivated in the Sub-Himalayan region of North Eastern India, Nepal and Bhutan. It is grown in cold humid conditions under shade of trees at an altitude between 800-2000 meters above sea level.
Cardamom is a perennial, herbaceous plant and grows up to 12 feet tall. Growing from rhizomes, the erect shoots have 9 to 13 linear lance shaped green leaves with a prominent mid-rib. The leaves are 2 feet long, smooth, and taper to a point.
Flowers are on separate, horizontal stems that are close to the ground.
The flowers are white or yellow with Lilac veins and pink or yellow margins.
The oblong fruits are green capsules, which are about 1 to 2 cm long. Outer skin is thin and smooth. Each fruit contains 15 to 20 aromatic black or brown seeds. The seeds have a unique aroma and taste. Cardamom pods are harvested and sold. The seeds are removed only when needed so as to retain its aroma.
The ripe dried fruit of Cardamom is sold to the consumers. The seeds are used as whole or ground form to flavor various dishes in India, Sweden, Finland, and Middle East. The coffee concoction Gahwa in Middle East is prepared using Cardamom.
Oil extracted from Cardamom is used in food preparations, perfumery, liquors, health foods medicines and beverages.
Traditional medicine in South East Asia use Cardamom to treat infections in teeth and gums, mouth ulcers, depression, nausea, throat troubles, congestion of the lungs and pulmonary tuberculosis, inflammation of eyelids, and digestive disorders. It is also used to break up kidney and gall stones.
It is also used to get relief from bad breath and Hiccups.