AskDefine | Define cardamom

Dictionary Definition



1 rhizomatous herb of India having aromatic seeds used as seasoning [syn: cardamon, Elettaria cardamomum]
2 aromatic seeds used as seasoning like cinnamon and cloves especially in pickles and barbecue sauces [syn: cardamon, cardamum]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. An Indian herb, Elettaria caramomum
  2. The aromatic seed of this plant, used as a spice in Asian cuisine, baking, and in curry powder.




  • Cardamom is called the "Queen of spices".

Extensive Definition

The name cardamom (or cardamon) is used for herbs within two genera of the ginger family Zingiberaceae, namely Elettaria and Amomum. Both varieties take the form of a small seedpod, triangular in cross-section and spindle-shaped, with a thin papery outer shell and small black seeds. Elettaria pods are light green in color, while Amomum pods are larger and dark brown.

Types and distribution

The two main genera of the ginger family that are named as forms of cardamom are distributed as follows:
  • Elettaria (commonly called cardamom, green cardamom, or true cardamom) is distributed from India to Malaysia.
  • Amomum (commonly known as black cardamom, brown cardamom, Kravan, Java cardamom, Bengal cardamom, Siamese cardamom, white or red cardamom) is distributed mainly in Asia and Australia.



Njallani, also known as "rup-ree-t" is a unique high-yielding cardamom variety developed by an Indian farmer Sebastian Joseph at Kattappana in the South Indian state of Kerala.
Sebastian Joseph and his son Regimon let bees cross-pollinate the cardamom plants and came up with a new high-yielding variety that he named Njallani, after his ancestral home. This variety yields 1500 kg/hectare as compared to the conventional 200 kg/ha. The increased yield revolutionised cardamom cultivation in the state of Kerala.


Both forms of cardamom are used as flavorings in both food and drink.
In some Middle Eastern countries, coffee and cardamom are often cooked and ground together in a mihbaz, an oven using wood or gas, and in a wooden mortar to produce mixtures that are as much as forty percent cardamom.
All the different cardamom species and varieties are used mainly as cooking spices and as medicines. In general,
  • Elettaria cardamomum (the usual type of cardamom) is used as a spice, a masticatory, and in medicine; it is also sometimes smoked; it is used as a food plant by the larva of the moth Endoclita hosei.
  • Amomum is used as a spice and as an ingredient in traditional systems of medicine in China, India, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam.
  • In the Middle East and Turkey, green cardamom powder is used as a spice for sweet dishes as well as traditional flavouring in coffee and tea. It is also used to some extent in some dish recipes. In Arabic, cardamom is called al-Hayl. In Persian, it is called hel.
  • In South Asia green cardamom is often used in traditional Indian sweets and in tea, or chai. Black cardamom is sometimes used in garam masala for curries. It is often referred to by its size as being 'Moti Elaichi' or fat cardamom. In Hindi, and Urdu cardamom is called elaichi, and "yelakki" in Kannada and other South Indian languages. It is called Elakka in Malayalam, which is the language of Kerala an Indian province that accounts for 70% of Indian cardamom.
  • In Northern Europe, cardamom is commonly used in sweet foods.
  • It has also been known to be used for making gin.
Cardamom has a strong, unique taste, with an intensely aromatic fragrance. Black cardamom has a distinctly more astringent aroma, though not bitter, with a coolness similar to mint, though with a different aroma. It is a common ingredient in Indian cooking, and is often used in baking in Nordic countries, such as in the Finnish sweet-bread pulla. It is one of the most expensive spices by weight, and little is needed to impart the flavor. Cardamom is best stored in pod form, because once the seeds are exposed or ground, they quickly lose their flavor. However, high-quality ground cardamom is often more readily (and cheaply) available, and is an acceptable substitute. For recipes requiring whole cardamom pods, a generally accepted equivalent is 10 pods equals 1½ teaspoons of ground cardamom.

In traditional medicine

In South Asia green cardamom, called "Elaichi" in Telugu, Hindi and Urdu. It is called "elakkaay" (ஏலக்காய்) or "elam" (ஏலம்) in Tamil. It is broadly used to treat infections in teeth and gums, to prevent and treat throat troubles, congestion of the lungs and pulmonary tuberculosis, inflammation of eyelids and also digestive disorders. It is also reportedly used as an antidote for both snake and scorpion venom.
Species in the genus Amomum are also used in traditional Indian medicine. Among other species, varieties and cultivars, Amomum villosum cultivated in China, Laos and Vietnam is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat stomach-aches, constipation, dysentery, and other digestion problems. "Tsaoko" cardamom Amomum tsao-ko is cultivated in Yunnan, China and northwest Vietnam, both for medicinal purposes and as a spice. Increased demand since the 1980s, principally from China, for both Amomum villosum and Amomum tsa-ko has provided a key source of income for poor farmers living at higher altitudes in localized areas of China, Laos and Vietnam, people typically isolated from many other markets. Recently, Nepal has been the world's largest producer of Cardamom. These days, Guatemala has become the world's largest producer and exporter of Cardamom, with a staggering exports of US$137.2 million for 2007.




  1. Mabberley, D.J. The Plant-book: A Portable Dictionary of the Higher Plants. Cambridge University Press, 1996.
  2. Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages: Cardamom
  3. Plant Cultures: botany and history of Cardamom
  4. Pham Hoang Ho 1993, Cay Co Vietnam [Plants of Vietnam: in Vietnamese], vols. I, II & III, Montreal.
  5. Buckingham, J.S. & Petheram, R.J. 2004, Cardamom cultivation and forest biodiversity in northwest Vietnam, Agricultural Research and Extension Network, Overseas Development Institute, London UK.
  6. Aubertine, C. 2004, Cardamom (Amomum spp.) in Lao PDR: the hazardous future of an agroforest system product, in Forest products, livelihoods and conservation: case studies of non-timber forest products systems vol. 1-Asia, Center for International Forest Research. Jakarta, Indonesia.
  7. Álvarez, L., Gudiel, V. 2008. 'Cardamom prices leads to a re-emergence of the green gold'.
cardamom in Arabic: هيل
cardamom in Bulgarian: Кардамон
cardamom in Czech: Kardamovník obecný
cardamom in German: Kardamom
cardamom in Dhivehi: ކާފޫރު ތޮޅި
cardamom in Lower Sorbian: Kardamom
cardamom in Spanish: Cardamomo
cardamom in Esperanto: Kardamomo
cardamom in Persian: هل
cardamom in French: Cardamome
cardamom in Galician: Cardamomo
cardamom in Upper Sorbian: Wšědny kardamom
cardamom in Indonesian: Kapulaga
cardamom in Italian: Cardamomo
cardamom in Hebrew: הל
cardamom in Kannada: ಏಲಕ್ಕಿ
cardamom in Georgian: ილი (მცენარე)
cardamom in Kurdish: Hêl
cardamom in Lithuanian: Tikrasis kardamonas
cardamom in Hungarian: Kardamom
cardamom in Malay (macrolanguage): Buah pelaga
cardamom in Dutch: Kardemom
cardamom in Japanese: カルダモン
cardamom in Norwegian: Kardemomme
cardamom in Low German: Kardamom
cardamom in Polish: Kardamon
cardamom in Portuguese: Cardamomo
cardamom in Russian: Кардамон
cardamom in Slovenian: Kardamom
cardamom in Finnish: Kardemumma
cardamom in Swedish: Kardemumma
cardamom in Tamil: ஏலக்காய்
cardamom in Telugu: ఏలకులు
cardamom in Turkish: Kakule
cardamom in Ukrainian: Кардамон
cardamom in Urdu: الائچی
cardamom in Chinese: 白豆蔻
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