Sometimes Cardamom is also known as cardamon, is a spice made from the seeds of several plants in the genera Elettaria and Amomum in the family Zingiberaceae. Both genera are native to India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bhutan; they are recognised by their small seed pods, triangular in cross-section and spindle-shaped, with a thin, papery outer shell and small black seeds. Guatemala, where the German coffee planter Oscar Majus Kloeffer introduced Indian cardamom before World War I has become the biggest producer and exporter of cardamom in the world, followed by India. Some other countries, such as Sri Lanka, have also begun to cultivate it. Elettaria pods are light green, while Amomum pods are larger and dark brown. India is the largest producer of large cardamom with 54% share in world production, and Sikkim contributes upto 88% of India's production.
In India the no. of varieties of cardamom are cultivated. North-east states are producing large production of crdamum. Panikulangara No.1, 2 Utis (alnus nepalensis) is the most common and preferred shade tree for large cardamom. The other species of shade trees are panisai (terminalia myriocarpa), pipli (bucklandia spp.), malito (macaranga denticulate), argeli (edgeworthes gardneri), asare (viburnus eruberens), bilaune (maesa cheria), kharane (symplocos spp.), siris (albizzia lebbeck), dhurpis and khasi cherry, katuse, faledo (erythrina indica), jhingani (euria tapanica) and chillowne (schima wallichi).
Cardamom is grown commercially in plantations under the shade of tall forest trees. It is a very labour-intensive crop to produce. The fruits are picked individually by hand before they are fully ripe, over a period of several months. In India, cardamom grows under natural conditions of the evergreen forests in the Western Ghats. It thrives best in tropical forests at altitudes ranging from 600-1500 metres, receiving a well-distributed rainfall of over 150 cm and a temperature of 10o - 35o C. Its optimum growth and development is observed in warm and humid places under the canopy of lofty, evergreen forest trees. It is highly sensitive to wind and drought and, therefore areas liable to be affected by these conditions are unsuitable. The crop does not survive in waterlogged or excessive moisture. The ideal site is a sloping land with good drainage.
Cardamom plants normally start bearing two years after planting. Throughout the cropping season of cardamom, i.e. from August to March approximately 6 picking is done in each 45 days interval. In most of the areas the peak period of harvest is during October-November. Ripe capsules are harvested in order to get maximum green colour during curing. The output of cardamom is greatly influenced by climatic conditions. The cardamom plant requires a continuous spell of rain interspersed with periods of good sunshine. The plant is very susceptible to attack by pests and diseases. Besides, the cardamom growing tracts in the country are facing severe ecological degradation over the past two decades due to diminishing forest cover, leaving the region open to devastation by floods and droughts. Cardamom requires tropical forest conditions for growth and a lack of such areas makes very few states in the country suitable for its plantation.
Storage & Packaging
There are some factors which are given below:
Because of the high value of cardamom, it is predominantly packaged in double-layered bags (42 - 50 kg) and is only seldom still transported in boxes. Ever more frequent use is made of single ply fabric bags lined with poly bags, black poly bags liners being used for the better, green grades to protect them from light. Premium grades from Guatemala for example are shipped in 5 kg cartons, 8 of these cartons in turn being packaged in a master carton. Cardamom husks are sometimes shipped in compress bales of up to 300 kg or loose in bags.