|Botanical name: Elettaria cardamomum Maton
Family name: Zingiberaceae
Commercial part: Fruit
Malayalam: Elam (plant), Elathari (seed)
The pleasant aroma and the delectable taste it offers have earned Cardamom the status ‘queen of spices’. Kerala boasts of the biggest cardamom market in the world which is in Kumily, near Munnar. Cardamom is a perennial and herbaceous plant. Malabar, Mysore and Vazuka are the three varieties of the plant. As the name indicates, Malabar is a native variety found in Kerala.
The Malabar cardamom is distinct for its prostrate panicle. Five to six seeds, black in colour, are held within a small shell. Cardamom is processed by drying. It is available in the market in the natural green colour or bleached white.
The other Indian states that grow cardamom (small) are Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
Cardamom has a special place in the Kerala cuisine. It is essential for payasams (a sweet dish often served during festivals and special occasions). Cardamom and its powder form are used as flavouring agents around the world. It is also used in baked foods and confectionaries.
Cardamom oil and oleoresin are used as flavouring agents in processed food and also for the preparation of some ayurvedic medicines and for manufacturing perfumes.