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Cardamom (large) - description and Cultivation


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Cardamom (large)

Introduction and description

Cardamom are the dried seed capsules of a small group of species or plants belonging to the family Zingiberaceae which contain seeds possessing a pleasant characteristic aroma and flavour. These are broadly grouped into two categories:

Small cardamom – popularly known as Chhota Elaichi (Elettaria cardamomum orthe true cardamom. It is also known as ‘Queen of Spices’.

Large cardamom – Bada Elaichi (Aframomum and Amomum species

Amomum subulatum Roxb. is the greater Indian or Nepal cardamom which is also called large cardamom. It is a native of the eastern Himalayan region. The presence of several wild relatives viz., A. delbatum, A. aromaticum, A. kinger, A. lingriformi, and A. corynostachium and the tremendous variability within the cultivated species support the view of its origin in Sikkim (Subba , Rao et al. , Singh and Singh

The order Zingiberales (formerly known as Scitamineae) to which the family Zingiberaceae belongs, appears to have originated as wild plants in the tropical evergreen forests. Zingiberaceae, the largest family of this order, is found throughout the tropics but is predominantly Asian. This family has provided important spices which are mostly aromatic, 0 genera and 900 species being recognized. The economically important species which have established themselves as aromatic spices are the genus Zingiber

(ginger), Curcuma (turmeric), Alpinia (galanga), Kaempferia, all representing rhizomatous spices, and Elettaria (small cardamom), Amomum and Aframomum (large cardamoms) representing seed spices (Anon.

There has been controversy over the grouping of cardamom. After detailed deliberations the ISO (International Standards Organization) has officially recognized nine species under three main groups (Pruthi

Group I: Elettaria cardamomum

Group II: 4 species of Aframomum

(a A. augustifolium (Sonn) K.Schum – Madagascar cardamom

(b A. hanburyi K.Schum – Cameroon cardamom

(c) A. korarima (pereira) Engler – Korarima cardamom

(d) A. melegueta (Roscol) K.Schum – Grains of paradise or Guinea grains. Group III: 4 species of Amomum

(a) A. aromaticum Roxburgh – Bengal cardamom

(b) A. kepulaga Spraque et – Round cardamom Burkill, Syn. A. cardamom Roxburgh

or Chester cardamom or Siam cardamom.

(c) A. krervanh pierre et Gagnipain – Cambodian cardamom

(d) A. subulatum Roxburgh – Greater Indian cardamom, Nepal cardamom or large cardamom

The Amomum species are known in the North East Indian and South East Asian countries, while the Aframomum species are known in the African regions of Sierra Leone, Guinea Coast, Madagascar and Tanzania. The fruits of the Amomum and Aframomum are much larger in size in comparison with Elettaria cardamomum and it is easy to distinguish them, but the seed size and anatomy are similar in all the three genera. In this chapter, only Amomum subulatum Roxburgh is taken into consideration as large cardamom as it is being cultivated in a larger extent and also due to its position in the trade. From now on, whatever we describe here relates only to Amomum subulatum Roxb.

(unless otherwise specified). This species is cultivated in swampy places along the sides of mountain streams in

Nepal, Bengal, Sikkim and Assam (eastern Himalayas) and forms one of the cash crops of eastern India. The plants are usually grown along jhoras (small springs), in moist and shady sides of mountain streams and along the hilly slopes, usually at an elevation of

5 to 5 metres above the mean sea level. The plant is a perennial herb having subterranean rhizomes which give rise to leafy shoots and spikes. The plant matures during the third year of its growth and its height ranges from 5 to 0 m. Leafy shoots are formed by long sheath-like stalks encircling one another. The leaves are green or dark green, glabrous on both surfaces with acuminate apex. Inflorescence is a dense spike on a short peduncle bearing 0 to 0 flower buds in an acropetal sequence. The fruit is a trilocular many-seeded capsule. The capsule wall is echinated and is reddish brown to dark pink (Rao et al. 1993a). Harvesting is usually carried out during August to October.

Dried large cardamom capsules are on an average 5 mm long, oval to globose; greyish brown to dark red brown. The fruit contains 0 seeds, held together by a viscous sugary pulp. Though the fruits are clearly identifiable by their larger size and differences in shapes compared with small cardamom, the seeds are of nearly the same size as those of true cardamom. Histological features, sizes and orientation of cells in different layers of husk and seed have been described by Berger ,

There are three popular varieties (cultivars) of large cardamom in Sikkim, viz., Ramsey, Golsey and Sawney. The varietal differences were described by Gyatso et al.

, Subba ) and Rao et al. ) (see Table . In addition to these popular varieties, there are several other varieties such as Ramla, Chivey Ramsey, Garday Seto Ramsey, Ramnag, Madhusay, Seto Golsey, Slant Golsey, Red Sawney, Green Sawney and Mingney (Gupta and Borethakur . Rao et al. b) reported a promising variety Barlanga from higher altitudes with desirable high yielding characters like maximum ratio of mature tillers to productive spikes ) and bold size capsules (with

0 to 0 seeds). Surveys carried out by Biswas et al. ) revealed that Ramsey and Ramla are well suited to higher altitudes, Golsey for lower altitudes and Sawney widely adaptable to different elevations

Table 1 Characteristics of different varieties of large cardamom Character/variety Ramsey Golsey Sawney Altitude High Low to middle Middle Extent of cultivation % %

Status  Tall, vigorous Less vigorous Tall, vigorous wide clump with erect bent,

growth leafy stem downwards bearing stout

upright leaves

Clumps medium

Stem colour Maroonish Greenish to Pinkish with with dense maroonish dark green foliage foliage

Flowers Yellowish and small, Yellowish Yellowish

corolla tip with pink orange with pink tinge at tinge at base base of corolla

Capsules Smaller 6 to Bold to round Medium bold

0 seeds) 0 to 0 seeds) 0 to 0 seeds) Essential oil 1 to % 3 to % 8 to

Shade requirement Deep shade Less shade Moderate to deep shade

Susceptibility Susceptible Tolerant to Susceptible to to diseases to Chirkey and Chirkey and viral diseases Foorkey at Foorkey but

lower susceptible altitudes to leaf spots

Source: Rao et al. (1993a)

2 Chemical structure

Large cardamom has the following chemical composition. The composition varies with variety, region and age of the product. The fruit on average comprises % seeds and

% skin (Govindarajan , Pruthi 1993). Moisture 8.49% Protein 6.0% Total ash 4.01% Starch 43.21% Crude fibre 22.0% Non-volatile ether extract 2.31% Volatile ether extract 3.0% Alcohol extract 7.02% Volatile extract 2.8% Water soluble ash 2.15% Alkalinity of water soluble ash 0.90% Ash insoluble in acid 0.42% Volatile oil

The volatile oil present in the seeds of large cardamom is one of the principal constituents responsible for providing the typical odour. The essential oil is obtained on steam distillation of crushed seeds and yields % dark brown coloured mobile liquid with

cineole-like aroma, having the following physical constants: specific gravity at 29sC,

, refractive index at 29sC, 0, optical rotation in chloroform 18sC (Pruthi

The highest volatile oil content was recorded as % in variety Golsey Dwarf, whereas the lowest was 5% in variety White Ramna (Gupta . Quantitative chromatographic analysis of the composition of distilled essential oil was reported previously by Nigam and Purohit ) and by Lawrence . The major constituent of large cardamom essential oil is cineole 0 ) while the content of terpenyl acetate is low (traces to five per cent). The monoterpene hydrocarbon content is in the range of % of which lamonene, sabeinene, the terpinenes and the pinenes are significant components. The terpinols comprise approximately five to seven per cent of the oil. The high cineole and low terpenyl acetate probably account for the very harsh aroma of this spice in comparison with that of true cardamom (Pruthi

3 The trade in large cardamom

The trade in Amomum species is largely confined within Asia, with only very small volumes entering the Middle East, European and North American markets. Mainland China has been and remains by far the principal importer. Large cardamom by smaller volumes have been regularly imported by a number of Arab countries as well as Pakistan, Vietnam, Korea and Japan. Until , the major supplier was Thailand, while minor supplies emanated from Laos, Cambodia (Kampuchea), Nepal and India. Since

Nepal has rapidly increased exports and now matches Thailand in importance.

Figures on overall production of large cardamom are scarce. The global production of large cardamom during 6 was estimated at 0 tonnes (Anon. . In 1997–98 the annual production of large cardamom in India was in the range of 0 to 5400 tonnes. The bulk of this is consumed in the country and only one third, about 1700 tonnes, is exported outside India mainly to Pakistan, UAE and Afghanistan (Anon. 9

4 Cultivation

The main conditions for growing large cardamom are:

Temperature range (sC): max. ; min.

Season: April–September

Annual precipitation: 0 cm (well distributed throughout the year)

Altitude range: 5 m above MSL

Morphology: 5 distinct types

Average life of a plant: 0 years

Bearing period: max. 0 years and steady yield throughout

Flowering and fruiting: four months from April to July

Harvesting: September–January; peak period – late October to mid December.

The flowering season starts in May and continues up to August. It takes about four months for the fruits to mature. Harvesting is done by collecting panicles containing ripe fruits with the help of a special chisel-shaped narrow knife, which is specially made for this purpose. Harvesting is done once a year, and because of this there will be some immature fruits in the harvested lot. After harvesting, the individual capsules are

separated from spikes by hand. At the time of harvesting, old sterile dried shoots which do not bear fruits are also removed, by the same knife, locally known as ‘Elaichi Chhuri’. During the third year, when first flowering starts in new plantations, the yield of dry fruits is negligible 5 kg or so per hactare). In subsequent years, every year the yield increases until it reaches a maximum in the sixth and seventh year. Yield at this stage varies greatly from 3 to 1 0 tonnes of dry cardamom per hectare according to the management and growing conditions of plantations. For one or two years the maximum yield is maintained and then it starts declining to a considerably lower level by the twelfth year. The rate and extent of yield decline again is very much dependent on the management and growing conditions. Some well-managed plantations can yield profitably even up to 0 years


The capsules are fleshy while harvesting with 2 to % of moisture content and the outer layer of the capsules also echinated that can be removed by rubbing after curing. The normal conversion ratio of green to dry capsules is 1 to 1 which varies according to size and method of curing (Roy . Retention of maroon colour of the capsules is a positive index of quality (Karibasappa , Rao et al. 1993a)

5 Post-harvest handling

Fruits are separated out of the harvested panicles for drying and curing. Harvested capsules are dried on a mud-plastered threshing floor for seven to ten days, and sold in markets. This contains about % moisture and dried again by traders to avoid fungal contamination. Mainly three types of curing systems are available

Traditional bhattisystem. In this system, a load of about 0 0 kg capsules are heaped per m2 in a 0 cm thick bed, and heated directly over a fire by firewood. The bhatti temperature during drying is 100sC and the drying operation stretches from two to three days. The capsules dried in this system are dark and have a smoky flavour because of direct exposure to heat and smoke. The volatile losses are as high as 35%. The original colour of the capsules is also lost and they cannot be stored for a long time (Roy , Rao et al. 1993a). The Central Food Technological Research Institute

(CFTRI has suggested a number of modifications to improve the colour of the

‘bhatti’-cured capsules CFTRI

Flue pipe curing houses. In this method flue pipes are laid inside a room (curing house) and connected to a furnace installed outside. Fresh cardamom is spread over wire meshes fixed above the flue pipes. This is an indirect system of drying and smoke does not come into contact with the produce at any stage. This type of drier resulted in early drying and gave better quality capsules, including a better colour (Annamalai et al. 1 , Karibasappa , Rao et al. 1993a).

CFTRI system. The Central Food Technological Research Institute, (CFTRI), Mysore, has designed and developed a low cost natural convection dryer. In this system the flue ducts are arranged in double-deck fashion and connected in series to the furnace. The convection current passes upward through the bed of capsules. Thermal efficiency is much better, the cost of drying cheaper, the quality of the product superior and the annual product output higher, than in the case of a curing house or any other existing system.

The husk of fresh capsules was found to contain % to % of anthocyanins. The dried husk contained 5 to 9% anthocyanins indicating the loss of colour during

drying. Treatment with diluted HCl solution 5 ) of the freshly harvested capsules, improved the colour after drying as revealed by better retention of the anthocyanin content of 3 mg/100 g as compared to freshly harvested ones that contain 9 mg/

0 g (CFTRI

Large cardamom is usually stored in bulk on bamboo matting spread on the ground or packed immediately into gunny bags which may then be stored in plywood tea-chests. A key issue in storage is maintaining the right level of moisture. The moisture content of capsules has to be brought down to % to achieve a longer shelf-life (CFTRI 94). Fully dried cardamom tends to split and also loses its natural taste to some extent, whereas excessive moisture reduces its value. A report by CFTRI, Mysore ) states that large cardamom stored over a period of six months tend to lose % by weight. Insect infestation also reduced the volatile oil content from % to , particularly as a moisture content of 1 % was found conducive for insect breeding. CFTRI has recommended the use of fumigants like methyl bromide 6 g/m , phosphine 5 g m ), ethyl formate 0 g/m ) to control all the stages of insect infestation without affecting the quality. CFTRI also recommends the usage of hessian cloth over wrapping of bags, in order to avoid the possibility of direct contamination of the products with the pesticides. Of several methods available for producing essential oil, steam distillation is ideal using powdered seeds for commercial level production. The essential oil obtained by steam distillation of dry cardamom seeds ranged from 5 to . An average yield of oleoresin of % was obtained by blending essential oil and resin fractions in the ratio of

. Chromatographic tests of the brown resinous residue obtained after steam distillation of large cardamom seeds indicate the presence of triglycerides and steroid compounds

(CFTRI . Hydrodistillation has proved to be unsuitable as it generates foam and leads to charring inside the distillation unit.

To improve the flavour of the large cardamom oil, cineole, which produces an undesirable odour, can be removed by fractionation, and the oil blended with -terpinyl acetate, linalyl acetate and genanyl acetate. As an alternative, the essential oil has been blended with small cardamom oil ) and -terpinyl acetate to obtain the pleasant smell of small cardamom. This method has the additional advantage of a threefold increase in the volume of final product (CFTRI

6 Main uses

Due to its pleasant aromatic odour, large cardamom is used for flavouring various vegetables and meat preparation in Indian dishes. It is also used as a flavouring agent in confectionery, hot or sweet pickles and in beverages. Large cardamom seed and powder are used as essential ingredients in mixed preparation and spice masala mixtures. The ripened fruits are considered to be a delicacy and are eaten raw by inhabitants of Sikkim and Darjeeling during September and October months (Gyasto et al. , Gupta et al.

. Large cardamom is also credited with curative properties in Ayurvedic and Unani systems of medicine (Mukherjee , Singh 8, Anon. 4

Essential oil, oleoresin, encapsulated flavour, cardamom cola, large cardamom flavoured biscuits and large cardamom flavoured liquors are some of the products developed for diversifying the uses of large cardamom (CFTRI . Encapsulated flavour is prepared by spray drying a blended solution of large cardamom oil and gum acacia solution. Cardamom cola is prepared by blending caramel acid, large cardamom flavour and carbonating the mixture. Volatile oil of large cardamom, with a mixture of

lemon, lime and ginger flavours, has been blended with distilled rectified spirit to create a liquor product which is compatible with other liquors.

7 Quality issues

The quality of large cardamom depends mainly on:

external appearance, which provides visual perception of quality as influenced by colour, uniformity of size, shape, consistency and texture

flavour, which is influenced by composition of aromatic compounds. Cineole contributes to pungency while terpinyl acetate towards pleasant aroma (Karibasappa

A draft International Standards Organisation (ISO) proposal on large cardamom was prepared by Spices Board, India in conjunction with CFTRI, Mysore and submitted to the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). The draft proposal for BIS adoption reads as follows: Capsules

1 Extraneous matter Not more than % by weight

2 Insect damaged capsules Not more than % by weight

3 Moisture Not more than % by weight

4 Volatile oil ) ml/100 g Not less than

5 Colour should be natural and capsules free from added colours


1 Moisture Not more than % by weight

2 Volatile oil Not less than % by weight

3 Total ash Not more than % by weight

4 Acid insoluble ash Not more than % by weight

5 Extraneous matter Not more than % by weight

6 The seeds should be free from moulds and insects

7 Insect damaged seeds Not more than % by weight

8 Colour and flavour Should be natural and characteristic

8 References

Readers interested in obtaining further background information on large cardamom are referred to the accounts by Parry ), Winton and Winton ), Viechoever and Sung , Bouquet and Kerharo 1 , Ferrara , Guenther , Gildemeister and Hoffmann , Berger ), Kulkarni and Pruthi , Melchior and Kastner , Singh et al. , Govindarajan et al. ), Rao et al. a) and Singh and Singh )

ANNAMALAI, J K, PATIL, R J and JOHN T D ), Improved curing methods for large cardamom, Spice India, 4,

ANON. ), Zinziberaceae. In Encyclopaedia Britannica Macropaedia, 15th edn, 9,

ANON. ), Status paper on Spices. Spices Board, Cochin, India, pp.

ANON. ), Indian Medicinal Plants – a compendium of 0 species. Vol I. Orient

Longman Publishers. (Eds Arya, Vaidyasala, Kottakkal , Coll No. AVS , pp.

ANON. , Spices Statistics. Spices Board. Kochi, India, p.

BERGER F , ) Neue Erkenninisse auf dem Gebiet der kardamonen forschung

Tiel , Gardian : , 8 2 , ; :

BISWAS A K, GUPTA R K and BHUTIA D T ), Characteristics of different plant parts of large cardamom, Cardamom, 9 ,

BOUQUET A and KERHARO J ), Les vegtaux condiments de l’Afrique du Nard dans l’aliminataon, la therapeutique et la magie, Acta Tropica, 7,

CFTRI , Studies on post harvest technology, product development and diversification of end uses of large cardamoms. Consolidated project report submitted by Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore, p. 0

FERRARA A Technologia della spezie: cardamom, Riv. Agric.Sub-trop. e Trop., 1,


GILDEMEISTER E and HOFFMANN FR ), Die Aetherisehen Oele. Vol IV. Berlin, Academic Verlag.

GOVINDARAJAN V S, SANTHI NARASIMHAN, RAGHUVEER K G and LEWIS Y S 82), Cardamom – production, technology, chemistry, and quality. CRC Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, pp.

GUENTHER E ), The Essential Oils, Vol. V. New York: D Van Nostrand Co.

GUPTA P N , Studies on capsule morphology of large cardamom cultivars (Amomum subulatum Roxb , J. Plantation Crops, 6,

GUPTA P N, NAGNI A, MISRA L N and NIGAM M C ), Gas chromatographic evaluation of the essential oils of different strains of Amomum subulatum growing wild in Sikkim, Soundrdruck aus Perfumerie und Kosmetic, 5,

GYATSO K, TSHERING P and BASNET B S , Large cardamom of Sikkim. Department of

Agriculture, Govt. of Sikkim, p.

KARIBASAPPA G S , Post harvest studies in large cardamom (Amomum subulatum

Roxb , J. Plantation Crops, 5,

KULKARNI B M and PRUTHI J S A simple and rapid test for the detection of adulteration in cardamom seeds, Indian Fd. Packer, 4,

LAWRENCE B M ), Terpenes in two Amomum species, Phytochemistry, 9,

MELCHOIR H and KASTNER H , Gewurze, Berlin: Paul Parey

MUKHERJEE D K , Large cardamom, World Crops, 5 ,

NIGAM S S and PUROHIT R M Chemical examination of the essential oil derived from the seeds of Amomum subulatum Roxb, Perfumery and Essential Oil Record,

, 2

PARRY E G , The Chemistry of the Essential Oils and Artificial Perfumes. Vol.

(3rd edn). London, Scott, Greenwood & Son.

PRUTHI J S Cardamom, greater cardamom and lesser cardamom. Spices and condiments. National Book Trust of India, New Delhi, pp.

PRUTHI J S Major Spices of India – Crop Management and Post Harvest

Technology. ICAR Publications, New Delhi, pp.

RAO Y S, ANAND KUMAR, SUJATHA CHATTERJEE, NAIDU R and GEORGE C K (1993a), Large cardamom (Amomum subulatum Roxb) – A review, J. of Spices and Aromatic Crops,


RAO Y S, GUPTA U, ANAND KUMAR and NAIDU R (1993b) A note on large cardamom

(Amomum subulatum Roxb) Germplasm collection, Jour. of Spices and Aromatic

Crops, 2 (1&2),

ROY B J ) Amomum cardamom (large wild cardamom) – the main cash crop of

Sikkim and Himalayan region, Spices News Letter, 2 ),

SINGH D B , Large cardamom, Cardamom, 0 , 1

SINGH G B, PANT H G and GUPTA P N ), Large cardamom – a foreign exchange earner from Sikkim, Indian Farming, ,

SINGH V B and SINGH K ), Large cardamom. Spices. Published by Indian Institute of Plantation Management, Bangalore and New Age International Publishers, New Delhi, pp

SUBBA J R ), Agriculture in the hills of Sikkim. Sikkim Science Society, Gangtok, p.

VIECHOEVER A and SUNG L K ), Common and oriental cardamoms, J. Amer. Pharm. Assoc., 6,

WINTON A L and WINTON K B ), The Structure and Composition of Foods. New York, John Wiley & Sons.

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