Cardamom, with its extensive uses and esteemed status as the ‘Queen of Spices,’ remains a valuable asset in cooking, medicine, and personal care. Available in various forms, each with unique properties, cardamom continues to meet global demands and holds a prominent place in both traditional and modern industries.

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Description

Ceylon Cardamom

Cardamom, known as the ‘Queen of Spices,’ is a highly prized spice derived from the seeds of plants in the genera Elettaria and Amomum, part of the ginger family. Native to the Indian subcontinent and Indonesia, the cardamom plant is a perennial herb with a pseudostem and thick, irregularly shaped rhizomes. When dried, its fruit becomes the cardamom pod, a spice of great value.

 

Varieties and Forms of Cardamom

Cardamom pods are spindle-shaped with a triangular cross-section and contain many small black seeds. The color and size of the pods depend on the species. Cardamom is available in several forms: whole pods, ground powder, and extracts like cardamom oil and oleoresin. In Sri Lanka, cardamom is primarily cultivated in the districts of Kandy, Matale, Kegalle, Nuwara Eliya, Ratnapura, and parts of Galle. The light green variety, Elettaria cardamomum, also known as Ceylon Cardamom, is particularly valued for its superior flavor, thanks to Sri Lanka’s unique growing conditions.

 

Production and Exportation

Sri Lanka produces about 0.1% of the global cardamom supply, amounting to 4000 to 5000 tons annually. This cardamom is celebrated for its distinct aroma and is exported in various forms:

  • Whole Cardamom: Intact pods with seeds.
  • Ground Cardamom: Powdered form commonly used in cooking, though it has a milder flavor than whole seeds.
  • Cardamom Oil: Extracted via steam distillation, known for its invigorating fragrance and compatibility with other oils.

Types of Cardamom in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan cardamom is classified based on the shape of its inflorescence:

  1. Malabar: Prostrate inflorescence.
  2. Mysore: Vertical inflorescence.
  3. Vazhukka: Inclined inflorescence.

Global Consumption and Culinary Uses

Cardamom is popular worldwide, especially in the Middle East, India, Pakistan, Europe, the USA, and Japan. In cooking, it flavors both savory and sweet dishes, from Asian cuisines to international confections. Ground cardamom, whole pods, and cardamom oil are also used in spiced teas and coffees. Additionally, its antifungal and antimicrobial properties make it a natural preservative in meat products.

Medicinal and Therapeutic Applications

Cardamom is highly valued in medicine for treating heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome, liver and gallbladder issues, and appetite loss. It is also used in remedies for sexual dysfunctions and urinary problems.

Beauty and Personal Care

Cardamom’s aromatic and health benefits extend to beauty and personal care products. Its oil is used in perfumes, soaps, face washes, and moisturizers, known for its skin-whitening properties. Cardamom extracts are also used in products for anti-dandruff and hair growth.

Alternative Medicine

In alternative medicine, cardamom is known for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties. It is used in herbal remedies and aromatherapy to treat digestive issues, reduce stress, and enhance liver and kidney functions.

 

Health Benefits

Cardamom is rich in nutrients, including Vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, manganese, zinc, and dietary fiber, while being low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Research supports its health benefits:

  • Cancer Prevention: Antioxidant properties reduce cancer risk.
  • Blood Pressure Regulation: Cardamom tea can help lower high blood pressure.
  • Anti-inflammatory Effects: Helps manage digestive disorders and cardiovascular health.
  • Heart Health: Reduces blood clotting and cholesterol levels.
  • Digestive Health: Prevents indigestion and stomach ulcers.
  • Oral Health: Improves gum health and freshens breath.
  • Mental Health: Alleviates depression and stress.
  • Skin and Hair Health: Improves skin and scalp condition, promoting healthy hair growth.

Quality and Processing Standards

After harvesting, cardamom capsules are washed, treated with sodium carbonate to retain color, and dried in hot air barns. The drying process, known as ‘Green curing,’ involves specific temperatures and intervals to achieve optimal quality. The final product is graded based on color, splits, and weight according to SLS 166:7980 standards.

 

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