Amomum subulatum, the Cardamon or Cardamom plant is an interesting herbaceous perennial plant, native to damp, forested valleys from the eastern Himalayas to central China. This member of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae produces an underground rhizome that gives rise to clusters of evergreen, leafy shoots to about 100cm (36in) tall.
Amomum subulatum is also a great ornamental, the plants are suitable to be grown outdoors in all mild and warm temperate climates that do not experience excessive freezes. The plant needs an average temperature of at least 10°C (50°C) to thrive and is hardy to around 2°C (35°F). In areas prone to frosts they are cultivated as a container plant, grown indoors or kept in frost free greenhouse through the winter.
Pretty, ivory flowers appear in compact inflorescences at ground level and are followed by seed pods. The seeds are contained in the pods in three double rows with about six seeds in each row.
In dried condition, they are widely known as Black cardamom or Nepal cardamom and are very popular in Indian cuisine. It is the world's third-most expensive spice, outstripped in price per weight only by saffron and vanilla.
While a single cardamom plant won't ever yield enough pods for a bountiful crop of the spice, the plant has an economic lifespan of 10 to 15 years, it makes an interesting conversation piece and a satisfying challenge for the adventurous gardener.
Cardamom is a plant in the ginger family native to tropical regions. In order to grow cardamom, its native tropical environment should be duplicated as closely as possible. The plant needs moist soil in a warm environment with filtered sunlight. In hot areas of the world the plants need shade and moisture. They will not survive in cool environments, but they are easily adapted to growing in containers placed in warm locations.
These plants do best in locations with temperatures at a constant 22°C (72°F). They can survive in slightly warmer temperatures, but they do not tolerate cooler environments. In order to grow a cardamom in cooler locales, it should be planted in a container that is kept indoors. An ideal location for a cardamom plant is in a bathroom, where it will benefit from the warmth and high humidity.
The container should be placed in an area that receives filtered or indirect sunlight as cardamom plants will not thrive in direct sun. When planting a cardamom outdoors, it needs a location that is constantly shaded. The best soil in which to grow a cardamom is a rich soil that holds moisture as these plants like their roots to be constantly wet. The soil should be mildly to strongly acidic.
Sowing: Sow indoors at any time.
Amomum seed should be sown in pots or trays and placed in a dark position. They need to be kept moist, but not soggy until germination.
A warm period of 25 to 30°C (77 to 86°F) and moist conditions after sowing for about four to five weeks neutralises the germination inhibition. The phytohormones which inhibit germination will then break down.
At this point the sowing needs very cool conditions, approximately 2°C (36°F). Initial germination lasts for about 80 days under these conditions. During this period keep in dark cold storage chamber. Then temperature and lighting must be increased gradually.
Transplant seedlings when they reach about 5cm (2in) in height to containers and continue to transplant to successively larger containers as necessary.
Seedlings should be planted in the soil at the same depth they were previously grown. The soil should be thoroughly moistened after planting. The soil needs to be watered often and should never be allowed to become dry.
Foliage growth can be encouraged by fertilising the plant with a high-nitrogen, low-potassium fertiliser. Indoor plants should be fertilised less often than outdoor plants.
The leaves, sometimes used for wrapping foods, can be harvested at any time.
The cardamom plants must be three years old before they begin producing their signature seed pods. The seeds are removed from the pods after the pods have dried. The pods can be left on the plant to dry or removed and placed on paper towels to dry more quickly.
Keep cardamom seed in its seedpods as husked seed and ground seed loses its flavour quickly. Always store it in an airtight container.
Black cardamom was historically used in Chinese cooking, at least back to the Yuan. It’s usually called tsaoko or tsaoko cardamom (sometimes caoguo) in recipe translations.
In the US and Great Britain the seeds are employed as an ingredient of curry powder and used as a flavourant in liqueurs, while in Russia, Sweden, Norway and parts of Germany they are largely used for flavouring cakes.
In Egypt and other Arabic cultures they are ground and used to flavour coffees and teas.
In the East, the plant is used medicinally, for digestive ailments. In Western medicine it is merely a flavourant or other additive to medicines, typically those for indigestion and flatulence. In traditional Chinese medicine, black cardamom is used for stomach disorders and malaria. The Arabs attributed aphrodisiac qualities to it (it features regularly in the Arabian Nights), and the ancient Indians regarded it as a cure for obesity.
The seeds contain yield an essential oil containing cineol as a principle constituent. Biological activity is found to be stomachic, astringent, antibilious, and antiemetic. It provides tonic properties to the heart, liver and spleen. A decoction of seeds is used as a gargle in affections of teeth and gums. In combination with the seeds of melon, it is used as a diuretic for kidney stones. In France and America the oil is also used in perfumery.
Amomum is a genus of plant in the family Zingiberaceae. It includes several species of cardamom, especially black cardamom Amomum subulatum but also the green cardamom, Elettaria cardamomum. Plants of this genus are remarkable for their pungency and aromatic properties.
Amomum subulatum is native to the eastern Himalayas and cultivated in Nepal, northern West Bengal, Sikkim and Assam. Today, the largest commercial producer of black cardamom is Nepal.
A cardamom plantation is begun be clearing a site leaving a few trees for shade. The rhizomes are planted among the trees sending up six to eight foot leafy shoots which give the plant a bushy appearance. When mature the plants send up flower spikes that produce the cardamom capsules. It takes up to four years to obtain a full cardamom crop from such a planting.
Cardamom is the world's third-most expensive spice, outstripped in price per weight only by saffron and vanilla. In its native areas it grows to be a large plant with thick stocks and huge leaves. It often grows on the steep cliffs and mountain hillsides throughout the jungle and is harvested by hand. So, the next time you wonder why something is so expensive you can ask yourself, where does this come from …. and, would I be willing to climb up a mountain to collect it?
The genus name Amomum derives from the Greek momum meaning 'unblemished' (literally or figuratively) or 'faultless'.
The species name subulatum is based on the Latin subula meaning 'awl-shaped' or 'tapering to a point', in reference to the shape of the leaves.
Its common name is spelt in a number of ways, Cardamom, Cardamon or Cardemon and occasionally Cardamum.
Also known as Black Cardamom, Greater Cardamom or Nepal Cardamom and occasionally as Bengal Cardamom, Winged Cardamom and Indian Cardamom.
It has the synonym of Amomum aromaticum.
- Additional Information
Average Seed Count 20 Seeds Common Name Cardamom Family Zingiberaceae Genus Amomum Species subulatum Synonym Amomum aromaticum Hardiness Tender Perennial Foliage Mid Green Height 100cm (36in) Position Needs a warm sunny spot