Cardamom known as Elettaria cardamomum is a pungent, aromatic, herbaceous, evergreen perennial of the ginger family. This plant is native to tropical areas of India, Burma, and Sri Lanka. It is commonly found growing in tropical monsoon forests in the Western Ghat Mountains in the Malabar region of SW India where rainfall typically reaches about 150 inches per year. Cardamom is internationally traded in the form of whole fruits and to a lesser extent as seeds. Cardamom seeds (whole or ground) are frequently used in Indian and Asian cuisines.
Outdoors in tropical climates, cardamom typically grows on somewhat cane-like stems to 6-15’ tall and features (1) fleshy knobby rhizomes; (2) leafy shoots bearing linear-lanceolate sword-shaped leaves (to 24” long); (3) leafless flowering stems which, depending on variety, are either horizontal, upright or in between; (4) loose panicles to 1-2’ long of spring flowers featuring white or yellowish petals with lilac-purple veins and pink or yellow margins; (5) oblong, thin-walled, smooth-skinned, yellowish-green fruit pods (to 3/4” long), each containing 15-20 aromatic black to reddish-brown seeds.
Indoors in temperate climates, cardamom typically grows as a much smaller plant to 2-4’ tall without producing flowers or seed.
Planting & Caring –
Cardamom will thrive when grown under the shade of tall trees in hot, humid, consistently moist, tropical rainforest conditions where daily temperatures infrequently dip below 72 degrees F. Flowers and fruits will appear only when plants are grown under tropical conditions. Plant growth, in general, will suffer significant injury if temperatures dip below 50 degrees F. Plants appreciate rainforest-type conditions with frequent misting of rainwater. The direct sun must be avoided. Best performance is achieved in situations where stable conditions prevail year-round without sudden changes occurring in temperature, rain volume, soil moisture levels,or sun exposure. Plants produce a crop of fruits that are labor-intensive to harvest (typically hand-picked).