All about Cardamom > Cultivation
- Family: Zingiberaceae (ginger family)
- Climate: hot and humid
- Cultivation: perennial
- Soil: altitudes from 800 to 1500 m
- Temperature: The ideal temperature is 22° C, and to keep its roots moist, it requires several metres of rain per year.
- Height: 2 to 3 m
The Normans first introduced cardamom into England in the 11th century. Even though cardamom first entered Europe several hundred years before Christ, it was not until the 17th century that cardamom was imported on a regular basis, marking the beginning of a new fashion.
Cardamom grows in the wild in forests situated between 800 and 1500 metres above sea level. Its favoured habitat is southwestern India in the Ghat mountains on the Malabar coast including the Cardamom hills, as well as the islands of Sri Lanka. Other varieties grow in Guatemala and El Salvador.
Its lanceolate leaves are an attractive bright green. For more than a year, the cardamom tree bears greenish-white flowers whose centres are tinged with blue. They grow low to the ground, which makes it easy to pick the pods.
The seeds are black, green or white.
The spice comes from a 1 cm oval pod consisting of three alveoles that contain about 20 angular and pitted seeds each. Until two hundred years ago, cardamom was harvested from wild plants, but since the beginning of the 19th century, cardamom has been grown from seed in open fields or in sheltered forests.
The fruits are picked one at a time from trees that are more than 2 or 3 years old, when three-quarters ripe in order to preserve their essential oil.
Depending on the temperature and on insect-borne diseases, a field that is one hectare large can produce 100 kg of pods. Under ideal conditions, this figure can increase tenfold. Once picked, the pods are washed, dried and bleached in the sun or in a warm room (they then stay green.) This process makes them lose 40% of their weight. The colour varies from pale green to brown.
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