Cardamom of commerce is the dried ripe fruit (capsules of cardamom plant) often referred as the “Queen of Spices” because of its very pleasant aroma and taste. Cardamom is a perennial, herbaceous, rhizomatous plant. Based on the nature of panicles, three varieties are recognized viz. Malabar with prostrate panicle, Mysore with erect panicle, and Vazhukka with semi erect panicle. Plants are of medium size (2 to 3 mtr height) with pubescent leaves (on the dorsal side) and fruits globose in the case of Malabar, whereas plant robust (3 to 4 mtr height) with leaves glabrous on both sides with ovoid capsules in the case of Mysore. Vazhukka variety is a mix of both the above in physical characteristics.
Indian cardamom is offered to the international markets in different grades: ‘Alleppey Green Extra Bold’ (AGEB), ‘Alleppey Green Bold’ (AGB) and ‘Alleppey Green Superior’ (AGS) are names that register instant appeal worldwide. Cardamom oil is a precious ingredient in food preparations, perfumery, health foods medicines and beverages. India, a traditional exporter of cardamom to the Middle East countries where it goes mostly into the preparation of ‘Gahwa’ – a strong cardamom – coffee concoction without which no day is complete or no hospitality hearty for an Arab. Indian cardamom enjoys a premium preference in the Middle East, Japanese and Russians who relish it for its distinct enriching properties.
It is used in food and drink as a flavoring and cooking spice. It is also used as a medicine. It is said to have a strong and unique taste with an intensely aromatic fragrance. Black cardamom is said to have a smokey aroma with a coolness considered similar to mint. Green cardamom is said to be an expensive spice but little is needed for flavor. Ground seeds quickly loose its flavor, so it is best to be stored in the pods as exposed. If the pods and seeds are grinded together, it loosed its quality and price. It is the most common ingredient in India and is found in a lot of dishes and curries. It is said to be used in baking in Nordic countries and also in Sweden and Finland. In the Middle East, it is used as a spice for sweet dishes, as a traditional flavoring in coffee and tea. Cardamom is mostly used in savory dishes.