Cardamom – The Queen of Spices


Cardamom, often called ‘Grain of Paradise’, is native to India. It is a pungent, aromatic herb, first used around the 8th century. Cardamom, rightly termed, as the Queen of Spices, is a highly priced exotic spice. The history of Indian cardamom is as old as human civilization. Cardamom was the most popular spice in ancient Rome. It is the world’s second most expensive spice, the first being saffron. Cardamom was grown in the garden of the King of Babylon in 721 B.C. It was most likely to have been imported into Europe around 1214 AD.

Botanically known as Elettaria cardamomum Maton, the cardamom, is a tall herbaceous perennial with subterranean branching rootstock. The leaves are elliptic, the flowers arise from the base of the vegetative shoots and the fruits are more or less oval in shape. The dried fruits are used as a spice.

Cardamom occurs wild in the evergreen monsoon forests of the Western Ghats in Southern India and Sri Lanka. It is cultivated in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Mexico, Thailand and Central America.

There are different varieties of cardamom such as Ceylon cardamom, Round cardamom, Xanthoid cardamom, Nepal cardamom, Bengal cardamom, Java cardamom, Korarima cardamom, Chinese cardamom and Madagascar cardamom. Indian cardamom is considered superior in quality and has a truly inimitable smell and flavor. The Malabar variety is more rounded in shape and has a pleasant, mild flavor. The Mysore variety, which is ribbed and three-cornered, has a slightly harsher flavor. India is the   world’s   largest producer of cardamom and accounts for about 80 per cent of the world’s exports.

India is a traditional exporter of cardamom to the Middle Eastern countries. The Japanese and Russians, appreciate it for its distinct enriching properties.




Cardamom is used in a range of cuisines today. It is often added to sweet dishes and drinks. It is an important constituent of garam masala, a combination of spices used to flavour many vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. It is also used as a mouth-freshener after meals. Tea and coffee prepared using cardamom have a pleasant aroma and are energizing as well. Cardamom oil is a valuable ingredient in food preparations, perfumery, health foods, preparation of certain medicines and beverages.

The ancient Greeks and Romans used cardamom in perfumes. Cardamom is also used in pickles, especially pickled herring, in mulled wines, occasionally with meat, poultry and shellfish. It flavors custards, some Russian liqueurs and Turkish coffee. Cardamom is also chewed routinely like nuts, as in the East Indies, and along with pan or betel leaves. The Scandinavians use cardamom for making pastries and buns and the Arabs use it for the reparation of Gahwa a strong cardamom coffee concoction, a symbol of hospitality.


Eco News, Vol 9, No 3, October to December, 2003.


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One Response to “Cardamom – The Queen of Spices”

  1. Lakshmi says:

    Excellent Article