Learn How to Grow Cardamom, one of the most expensive spices in the world. Growing cardamom is moderately difficult but you can learn how to do it by reading this article.
Cardamom is one of the world’s most expensive spices after saffron and vanilla. It has a sweet, burning taste and a very distinctive spicy odor. Cardamom because of its variety of uses gained a reputation as the queen of spices (king, however, is black pepper).
USDA Zones — 10 – 12
Difficulty — Moderate to Hard
Other Names — Amomum cardamomum, Bai Dou Kou, Black Cardamom, Cardamome, Cardamomo, Cardomom, Cardomomi Fructus, Ela, Elettaria cardamomum, Green Cardamom, Huile Essentielle de Cardamome, Indian Cardamom, Lesser Cardamom, Kardamom, chhoti elachi, lachie, illaichi and elam.
Commonly, you can find two types of cardamom: Green (originating in India and Sri Lanka) and black (in Nepal and Himalayan states of India).
Cardamom (Elettaria cardammommum) is a perennial plant. It has rigid and erect aromatic leaves, which forms the aerial part of the plant’s stems. These stems are between 2 to 4 meters high and forms a canopy of leaves around the plant.
Tiny cardamom flowers are beautiful and are usually white in color with a yellow or red strips over them.
Cardamom fruits are called capsules. Inside the fruits there are seeds of the plant, which are actually used as spice.
You can propagate cardamom from seeds. You can try seeds you get from glossary store but those seeds are generally treated and not fresh. For best results buy seeds from seed store or online.
Read this to learn how to grow cardamom plant from seed.
The easiest way to propagate cardamom is from division. For this, cut the rhizome with a sharp knife and carefully separate it from the plant.
Replant it under the similar conditions. Beware that this techinique will also transmit cardamom mosaic virus from mother plant to new plant, if it is infected.
Growing Cardamom is difficult, it requires specific growing conditions: Tropical, hot and humid climates are suitable for its growth. It grows in humid or very humid subtropical forests. Where temperature ranges mostly between 18 to 35 C. Humidity level for growing cardamom is usually near 75%.
Plant cardamom in a location with partial shade or filtered sun light, away from full direct sun as it grows up to 2 – 4 m in height under the canopy of much higher trees.
Sandy, loamy soil that is rich in organic matter and manure is optimal. It requires slightly acidic to neutral pH level around 6 – 6.8. It can also tolerate acidic soils down to 5.5 – 6.
Key to growing cardamom is right substrate, which should be well-drained in a way that water should drain out easily, but soil must remain moist constantly. By moist it doesn’t mean damp or waterlogged soil, the clay texture of soil is also not recommended as it kills the plant.
Cardamom grows in rainforest, these areas mostly receives rainfall 200 days annually. So it is essential to keep the soil constantly moist, don’t let the soil to dry out ever. In summer or when the plant is setting fruits, increase watering.
Supply organic fertilizer that is high in phosphorous and apply it twice a month during the growing season. Also apply 5 kg aged manure or compost per clump annually. Application of neem cake is also recommended.
Harvesting and storage
Cardamom starts to bear fruit from the third year after planting.
Fruit harvesting must be done manually. You can start collecting fruits when they begin to green, dry and easy to break.
After harvesting, dry the pods for 6 – 7 days and store them in an airtight container in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight to be preserved for long time.
Pests and diseases
It is generally not attacked by pests. However, some of the pests and diseases that attacks it are:
Cardamom mosaic virus: It is the most serious disease of cardamom. It is a viral disease transmitted by aphids. To prevent this disease keep your plant healthy and never let aphids infect it.
Rhizomes rot: Its symptoms includes chlorosis of leaves, lower leaves become yellowish, premature fruit drop and decay of the rhizomes also happens. It can be caused by high planting density that prevents aeration or by water logged soil.
Other pests and diseases that might infect or attack it are cardamom thrips, capsule rot and nematodes.
If the leaf tips turn brown, you either have underwatered it or humidity is low, to increase the humidity level spray the foliage. If overwatered, the roots begins to rot and plant starts to wilt.
Brown spots can occur on leaves if plant is grown under too much sun.
Yellowing leaves are usually a sign of too little fertilization or deficiency of iron.
Also read: How to Identify Plant Problems from Leaves.
True cardamom or green cardamom belongs to the genus Elettaria but there is also a plant from the genus Amomum costatum known as Nepal cardamom or black cardamom. Both of these cardamoms have distinctive uses: Green cardamom is more intense and superior and can be used in many dishes, whereas black cardamom is long and thick and is not used in sweet dishes and desserts.
Cardamom leaves also emit aroma when you rub them, you can also make tea of them.