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XII. A Peep Into the Future of Cardamom
THE AGRONOMY AND ECONOMY OF CARDAMOM
Cardamom export (t) from India and Guatemala
Source: India, DGCI & S, Kolkota/shipping bills/exporters returns.
Guatemala: up to 1991–1992 Banco De Guatemala and from 1992
to 1993 estimates based on past trends. D.N.A., data not available.
India and Saudi Arabia are the largest cardamom consumers in the world.
Both the countries put together consume more than 50% of total world
production. As Indians enjoy self‐suYciency in cardamom, import is not
encouraged by the government. Yet, cardamom from Guatemala comes
through the Nepal border into India and is posing a great menace to Indian
production as this import, although clandestine, is price competitive although the cardamom from Guatemala is of lower quality. The government
of India has been unable to check this economic oVence. Table LIX gives a
comparative picture of cardamom consumption by India and Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia imports its entire requirement from Guatemala. Other
important importing countries are: Kuwait, Jordan, Quatar, United Arab
Emirates, Japan, Singapore, Russia, United Kingdom, Germany, Scandinavian countries such as Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark. Saudi
Arabia is world’s highest consumer of cardamom, where it is extensively
used in the preparation of the traditional drink Gawha. This drink is popular
also in Kuwait, Muscat, and Doha. It is reported that Gawha normally
contains 30% cardamom, and the balance is made up of coVee powder.
Often the ratio of cardamom to coVee powder can also vary in the ratio of
60:40 or 50:50. It is the elderly and conservative Arabs in the Middle East
who enjoy the Gawha (Sahadevan, 1965b). Similarly, cardamom tea is also
popular in the Middle East as well as in India (Anon, 1952b). In India,
cardamom is consumed not only in households, but also, in industrial
units and research institutions. A survey conducted by the Spices Board of
India indicates that cardamom finds manifold applications (Anon, 1977a).
The main reason for the choice of cardamom is its cool, refreshing aroma
K. P. PRABHAKARAN NAIR
Cardamom Consumption (t) by India and Saudi Arabia
Source: Spices Board of India; UN Statistics: 1990–2000.
Note: Based on import statistics.
with pleasant and sweet taste. The average household consumption of
cardamom in India in both urban and rural areas is about 35 kg yearÀ1.
The household consumption is estimated to grow at a rate of 3.7% per
annum to attain a level 6150 t in the early part of the current century
(George and Johan, 1998). Although the total consumption is less, industrial
units are the bulk consumers of cardamom in India. Their preparations
comprise Pan masala (a betel nut, Areca catachu based chewing mixture
which is very popular in northern India and Pakistan), other Masala
(explained in earlier sections) products, herbal medicines, tobacco products,
biscuits and similar items, and cardamom oil. The demand from the industry
was around 2050 t in 2000 at a growth rate of 15% per annum.
Primarily, the Indian institutions which consume cardamom are, hotels,
restaurants, bakeries, sweetmeat shops, and so on. Demand from this sector
was increasing at the rate of 10% per annum and reached 1250 t in 2000 AD.
A number of measures have been taken in India for widening the demand
base. The Regional Research Laboratory (RRL), Trivandrum, Kerala State,
The Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysore,
Karnataka State, have taken up studies for developing new cardamom‐based
products. The Indian Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, has conducted
an investigation on the nutritional and medicinal values of cardamom. The
Ayurveda College, Trivandrum, has carried out a study on the use of cardamom to develop Ayurvedic (the ancient Indian system of medicine) medicines
for diVerent common ailments. The Arya Vaidya Sala, the premier research
and medical care institute in Kottakkal, Kerala State, has done pioneering
work on the usefulness of cardamom‐based soaps for good skin care (George
and John, 1998).
THE AGRONOMY AND ECONOMY OF CARDAMOM
The Spices Board of India, which comes under the administrative control
of the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India, has been in contact
with manufacturers of various food products to promote cardamom use.
Some manufacturers have begun to use cardamom flavor in their products,
while many have conducted tests to assess the suitability of cardamom oil
as a flavoring agent in their manufactured products. As a result of all
these eVorts, a variety of end products using cardamom flavor have been
launched in the market such as cardamom‐flavored biscuits, toVee, flan,
tea, and coVee powder, and cardamom‐based concentrates (George and
A. POTENTIAL APPLICATIONS
The future of any commodity depends on the present and potential uses.
Since cardamom is a weak flavorant, it does not have adequate strength to
displace a strong flavorant like vanilla. But, its use as a breath freshener finds
widespread use in India. And it is preferred by many in place of the commercial chewing gum. Although cardamom seed has no chewing gum properties,
because of its mild exciting taste and acceptable smell, the habit of chewing
cardamom is spreading in many parts of India. Promotional eVorts by the
Spices Board of India have also tapped its potential as a substitute to smoking
cigarettes and Beedi (the Indian version of the cigarette where tobacco is
stuVed and rolled into ripened and cured Kendu leaves, a perennial tree
growing in eastern India, whose dried and cured leaves are cut into small
pieces to fill the tobacco leading to the finished product Beedi). In cola drinks,
the aroma of cardamom is highly acceptable and the testing of consumer
preference for cardamom‐flavored cola in many cities in India has been very
positive (Anon, 1996).
Medicinal value of cardamom has not been studied fully in any country. Only
little work has been done in India. Ayurveda mentions the use of cardamom and
has been found eVective as a carminative, body massage oil and also as a
suppressant of cold and cough, but more research needs to be carried out
to understand the full potential of cardamom (Anon, 1952a, Sahadevan, 1965a).
B. FUTURE OUTLOOK
1. Research and Development
The most critical of the R&D eVorts in cardamom production is to widen
and enhance the genetic potential of the existing germplasms. And supportive crop management technology also plays a vital role. Unless a quantum
K. P. PRABHAKARAN NAIR
jump is attained in productivity, Indian cardamom cannot be competitive in
world markets (Anon, 1988). Fertility management of cardamom‐growing soils
is a very important component of this task. As of now, prescriptive soil
management aspects, especially inasmuch as cardamom nutrition is concerned,
revolve around textbook knowledge. Almost the entire approach to fertility
management in cardamom‐growing soils is based on classic textbook knowledge, where empirical fertilizer recommendations generated from microplots
are extrapolated to large‐scale field conditions. These experimental microplots
are nothing but artifacts and many of the recommendations, which emanate
from such studies, when applied to large‐scale plantations, turn out to be quite
oV the mark in reproducing quantifiable results. This often shatters the farmers’
confidence. A significant departure is being made after concerted eVorts of this
author, who has developed an entirely new approach to soil testing and fertilizer management, based on nutrient buVering. The concept is now known,
universally, as ‘‘The Nutrient BuVer Power Concept.’’ A detailed discussion
on the concept and its relevance in cardamom nutrition, especially with regard
to potassium, which is required by cardamom in large quantities for high
productivity, is given in this chapter. In India, in the state of Kerala, where
cardamom is grown to a largest extent, it has been observed that fertilizer input
can be significantly reduced by taking into consideration the buVer power of
the nutrient under question. Experimental results of Nair et al. (1997) show
that as against the routine soil testing and fertilizer recommendations, addition
of K fertilizer, a crucial input in cardamom production, can be substantially
reduced following the buVer power concept (Nair, 2002). There is an urgent
need to extend the concept to other nutrients, possibly phosphorus and nitrogen as well as these are also crucial in cardamom production. Of these, phosphorus is more important in view of the fact that the soils of Kerala State, the
home of cardamom, are lateritic and much of the applied phosphatic fertilizer,
based on routine soil testing is rendered unavailable to the crop. It is in this
context that the buVer power concept holds out much promise in cardamom
farming. However, it must be emphasized that the success of a new approach, to
a great extent, rests with the ingenuity of those applying it to suit the demands
of a new situation. This principle is no exception to making ‘‘The Nutrient
BuVer Power Concept’’ succeed in the case of cardamom production, as has
been the case with other crops, such as black pepper, a perennial crop like
cardamom, maize, rye, whiter clover, and so on (Nair et al., 2002). The fact that
cardamom is a perennial crop makes it all the more important because, unlike
in an annual one, where a midcourse correction can be eVected in the following
season, in a perennial crop like cardamom the fertilizer regime has to be precise
right from the beginning because cardamom grows upwards of 25 years. Unlike
routine soil testing, the new approach calls for an accurate determination of
the buVer power of the nutrient in question at the very start of the fertilizer
regime. Once this is accomplished, the buVer power factor can be incorporated
THE AGRONOMY AND ECONOMY OF CARDAMOM
into the computations with the routine soil test data and accurate fertilizer
recommendations can be made on the basis of this new information. This
implies that, in addition to obtaining routine soil test data, one also needs to
know the buVer power. This author has obtained very encouraging results with
the new concept in cardamom production in the State of Kerala, India, with
regard to K fertilization, which is most crucial to cardamom productivity since
K is the nutrient that the cardamom plant requires in the largest quantity.
Hopefully, the new concept could successfully be extended to other important
plant nutrients as well.
Cardamom being a shade‐loving plant, its production physiology is
diVerent from other Zingiberous plants. And only little is known about
these aspects. Productivity increase can be best achieved by genetic upgradation through new gene combinations and heterosis breeding and subsequent
production of hybrid seeds. Production of genetically homozygous lines for
heterosis breeding is thus an urgent need. Hence, an area of great importance
is the production of haploids and diploids for hybrid seed production. This
step itself can revolutionize cardamom production.
An intensive search is required to locate heat and drought tolerant lines.
Heat and drought susceptibility are the most serious production constraints
facing cardamom production in India. Once this is achieved, the incorporation of such resistance in elite genotypes can be achieved utilizing conventional breeding or the haploid–diploid hybrid system.
Resistance to biotic stress factors especially that of virus diseases is another
equally important aspect that merits great attention by cardamom researchers. Survey of natural disease escapes in hotspot areas, their screening and
evaluation has led to some Katte and rhizome rot resistant lines in the
germplasm collection project of the Indian Institute of Spices Research, at
Kozhikode, Kerala State, under the administrative control of the Indian
Council of Agricultural Research, New Delhi. Some of these lines are high
yielding as well. For the production of planting material, which is an important component of cardamom production, presently these lines can be made
use of. At the same time, the agronomically superior lines have to subjected to
molecular‐breeding programs for the production of transgenics incorporating
the Katte virus resistance either through coat protein mediated resistance
An important area of global importance is the emergence of organic
farming and organically produced crops are in far greater demand than ever
before. The spices form an excellent opportunity in this area and cardamom is
no exception. A substantial quantum of research and developmental eVorts
has to go in to achieve the targets in this area. Another area that may yet
emerge is the production of transgenic cardamom plants capable of surviving
biotic and abiotic stresses. Cutting‐edge technology in the area of cardamom
production along these lines is nonexistent as of now, but future compulsions
K. P. PRABHAKARAN NAIR
would demand such eVorts, although, at this stage, one cannot hazard a guess
what the future holds out.
During the past decade and a half, world production and demand have
increased parallelly, leaving very little as left‐over production from the
previous season. In fact, during this period, both production and demand
enhanced by about 250%. It is also during this period that the cardamom
industry grew manyfold, benefiting all those who are engaged in production,
processing, and marketing. It is hazardous to predict the future of any
nonessential agricultural produce with limited market and cardamom
comes under this category, although, it is the second most prized spice in
the world. However, it appears that cardamom has somewhat a bright
future. But, any substantial increase in production by any cardamom‐
producing country in a short span of time might upset the supply–demand
equation. Such a situation might lead to a steep price fall resulting in
cardamom planters abandoning the crop. A situation almost akin to this
was experienced by Guatemala in 1997–1998, when its production was at its
peak, and the Middle East market for cardamom crashed due to the decline
in oil boom.
In spite of the fact that both aroma and flavor of cardamom are acceptable in the manufacture of many foods, consumption in the developed
world, primarily in the United States, Japan, European Union, Australia
and New Zealand, and so on, is low. At present, the use of cardamom as raw
material for the manufacture of processed foods, as cardamom oil and
oleoresin will be in the range of 1500 t per annum in the developed world.
This is primarily because no agency is making a concerted eVort to boost
cardamom use in these countries. As cardamom is produced in the developing world and the cardamom industry supports many small cardamom
farers, it is desirable to have a concerted public relationship drive in cardamom use. There are a few reputed spice importers’ associations, such as
American Spice Trade Association (ASTA), European Spice Association
(ESA), and All Nippon Spice Association (ANSA), which can be contacted
for promotional purposes. Like in pimento and black pepper, where producers and importers have joined hands, an eVort can also be imitated in the
case of cardamom.
Other than in India, there is but scant cardamom consumption elsewhere.
For sound development of agricultural industry, the best safeguard is the
domestic market, since international markets can fluctuate from competing
countries of production, as has been the case between India and Guatemala.
Promoting cardamom consumption in both traditional and nontraditional
countries of consumption must be initiated. The phenomenon of cheap
Guatemalan cardamom flooding Indian market, both due to the liberalization of the economy, as well as due to clandestine import through the
Nepalese border, has shattered Indian cardamom market. The lesson that
THE AGRONOMY AND ECONOMY OF CARDAMOM
must be learnt from this episode is that unless farmers are enabled to produce
competitively and diversify cardamom use, the future for cardamom will only
XIII. LARGE CARDAMOM
(AMOMUM SUBULATUM ROXB.)
Large cardamom is also known as Nepal cardamom (Amomum subulatum
Roxb.) is a spice cultivated in the sub‐Himalayan region of northeastern
India, especially in Sikkim, since time immemorial. In the past, the aboriginal
inhabitants of Sikkim, Lepchas, collected capsules of large cardamom from
the natural forest but later on these forests passed into village ownership and
the villages started cultivation of large cardamom. The presence of wild
species, locally known as churumpa, and the variability within the cultivated
species supports the view of its origin in Sikkim (Subba, 1984). Subsequently,
the cultivation spread to northern Uttar Pradesh, northeastern states of India
(Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Manipur), Nepal and Bhutan. Sikkim is
the largest producer of large cardamom and the annual production in India
is about 3500–4000 (t) of cured large cardamom. The average productivity is
100–150 kg haÀ1 but in well‐maintained plantations the productivity can go
up to 1000–2000 kg haÀ1. Nepal and Bhutan are the other two countries
cultivating this crop with an annual production of about 1500 (t). This spice is
used in Ayurvedic medicines in India as mentioned by the great Indian Sage
Medical Practitioner Susruta in the sixth century BC and this was also known
to the Greeks and Romans as Amomum (Ridley, 1912). Large cardamom
contains ca. 1.98–2.67% of volatile oil and is mainly used in flavoring food
products (Gupta et al., 1984). The seeds also possess certain medicinal properties, such as carminative, stomachic, diuretic, cardiac stimulant, antiemetic
and are a remedy for throat and respiratory problems (Singh, 1978). As a
marketable commodity, it is sold mainly in northern India. Over the past few
years, large cardamom is also exported and in 1997–1998 India earned about
US$3 million as export earnings, when the country exported 1784 t. Pakistan,
Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, United Kingdom, and the Middle East
countries are the major importers of large cardamom.
A. HABIT AND HABITAT
Amomum subulatum is a perennial herb, which belongs to the family
Zingiberaceae under the order Scitaminae. The plant consists of subterranean rhizomes and several leafy aerial shoots and/or tillers. Number of such
K. P. PRABHAKARAN NAIR
rhizhomatous leafy shoots varies between 15 and 140 in a single plant or
clump. Height of leafy shoot ranges from 1.7 to 2.6 m depending on the
cultivar and possesses 9–13 leaves in each tiller. Leaves are distichous, simple,
linear and lanceolate, glabrous on both sides with a prominent mid rib.
Inflorescence is a condensed spike on a short peduncle. Flowers are bracteate,
bisexual, zygomorphic, epigynous, and cuspinated. The yellowish perianth is
diVerentiated into calyx, corolla, and anther crest. Each spike contains about
10–15 fruits (capsules) and rarely up to 20–25 capsules, depending on cultivars. Flowering season begins early at lower altitude with peak flowering
during March–April, whereas it starts at higher altitudes in May with a
peak during June–July. Harvesting begins during August–September at
lower altitudes and in October–December at higher altitudes (Gupta and
John, 1987). The fruit is a round and oval shaped capsule, trilocular with
many seeds. Capsule wall is echinated, reddish brown to dark pink. Seeds
are white when immature and become dark gray to black toward maturity.
The capsules formed at the basal portion of spike are bigger and bolder than
the others (Rao et al., 1993).
Large cardamom is grown in cold and humid conditions under shade
trees at altitudes varying from 800 to 2000 m amsl with an average precipitation of 3000–3500 mm, spread over about 200 days and the temperature
ranging from 6 C in December–January to 30 C in June–July (Singh, 1988).
Frost, hailstorm, and snowfall are the major deleterious factors aVecting
large cardamom. The crop grows well in moist, but well drained loose soil.
The depth of soil varies from a few centimeters to several meters depending
upon the topography and soil formation. Soil is acidic and rich in organic
matter (Mukherji, 1968).
The commercially grown cultivars of large cardamom belong to the species
Amomum subulatum Roxburgh. Out of the total 150 species of Amomum
occurring in the tropics of the world, only about 8 species are considered to
be native of eastern sub‐Himalayan region, namely, Amomum subulatum
Roxb., Amomum costatum Benth., Amomum linguiformae Benth., Amomum
pauciflorum Baker., Amomum corynostachyum Baker., Amomum dealbatum
Roxb. (Amomum sericeum Roxb.), Amomum kingii Roxb., and Amomum aromaticum Roxb. (Hooker, 1886). Later 18 species of Amomum were reported
from the northeastern Himalayan regions (Anon, 1950). In the Indian subcontinent itself, there is another center of diversity in the Western Ghats region
in the southwest India. Gamble (1925) has reported six species from this region.
There are mainly five cultivars of large cardamom, namely, Ramsey,
Sawney, Golsey, Varlangey (Bharlangey), and Bebo (Gyatso et al., 1980).
THE AGRONOMY AND ECONOMY OF CARDAMOM
They are well known. Some other subcultivars of the above ones (Ramnag,
Ramla, Madhusey, Mongney, and so on) are also seen in cultivation in small
areas of Sikkim State in northeastern India. Another cultivar Seremna
or Lepbrakey (a Golsey type) is also getting importance and is spreading to
more areas at lower altitudes (Upadhyaya and Ghosh, 1983).
The name Ramsey was derived from two Bhutia (the language spoken in
Bhutan, the northeastern India) words Ram meaning Mother and Sey
meaning Gold (yellow color). This cultivar is well suited for higher altitudes,
even above 1500 m on steep slopes. Grown up clumps of 8–10 years age
group possess 60–140 tillers. The color of the tillers is maroon or maroonish
green. Second fortnight of May is the peak flowering season. Capsules are
small, average length is around 2.27 cm and 2.5‐cm wide, with 30–35
capsules in a spike, each containing 16–30 seeds. The harvest is during
October–November. Peak bearing capsules are noticed in alternate years,
which is generally referred to as ‘‘Alternate Bearing,’’ a phenomenon common in mango as well. This cultivar is more susceptible to the viral diseases
Foorkey and Chirke especially if planted at lower altitudes. It occupies a
major area under large cardamom in Sikkim and Darjeeling district of the
State of West Bengal. Two strains of this cultivar, namely, Kopringe and
Garadey from Darjeeling district having stripes on leaf sheath, are reported
to be tolerant to chirke virus (Karibasappa et al., 1987).
This cultivar obtained its name from the Nepalese word Sawan which
signifies the month of August by when it is ready for harvest and the cultivar
grows well at low to midaltitudes. It is widely adaptable and can grow at
high altitudes, even as high as 1300–1500 m. It is robust in nature and
consists of 60–90 tillers in each clump. Its tillers are similar in color to that
of Ramsey. Each productive tiller, on average, produces two spikes. Average
length and diameter of a spike is 6 and 11 cm, respectively. Flowers are
longer (6.23 mm) and yellow in color with pink veins. Second half of May is
the peak flowering season (Rao et al., 1993). Capsules are bigger and bold,
and the number of seeds in each capsule are more (35) than in Ramsey.
Harvest begins in September–October and may extend up to November in
high altitude areas. This cultivar is susceptible to both Chirke and Foorkey
viral diseases. Cultivars, such as Red Sawney and Green Sawney, derived their
names from capsule color. Mongney, a strain found in south and west districts
K. P. PRABHAKARAN NAIR
of Sikkim is a nonrobust type with its small round capsules resembling mostly
that of Ramsey.
Golsey (Dzoungu Golsey)
The name is derived from the Hindi (the widely spoken North Indian
language) language and Bhutia, the Bhutan language, with the root Gol
meaning round and Sey meaning Gold (yellow color). It is suitable for low
altitudes, below 1300 m amsl especially in Dzongu area in North Sikkim.
Plants are not robust like other cultivars and have 20–25 straight tillers with
erect leaves. Alternate, prominent veins are extended to the edges of leaves
(Biswas et al., 1986). Unlike Ramsey and Sawney, tillers are green in color.
Each productive tiller on an average produces two spikes. Flowers are bright
yellow. On an average, each spike is 5.3‐cm long and 9.5 cm in diameter and
contains an average of seven capsules. Capsules are big and bold, 2.46‐cm
long and 3.92‐cm wide and contain 60–62 seeds. This cultivar becomes ready
for harvest in August–September. Golsey is tolerant to the two viral diseases
Chirke and Foorkey and also the leaf streak diseases. The cultivar is known
for its consistent performance, although not a heavy yielder. Many local
cultivars are known in diVerent locations such as Ramnag in North Sikkim.
The word Ramnag can be split into its root Ram meaning mother and Nag
meaning black, referring to the dark pink‐colored capsules. Seto‐Golsey is
from west district of Sikkim with robust leafy stems or tillers and green
capsules. Madhusey with elliptic and pink‐colored capsules has robust leafy
stem with sweet seeds compared to other cultivars (Rao et al., 1993).
The plants are tall and vigorous like Ramsey and have capsule characters
like Dzongu Golsey, tillers are pink colored like Ramsey and Sawney. Cultivation is restricted to a few midaltitude plantations in North Sikkim. The
capsules are dark pink with 25–38 seeds per capsule. Ramla appears to be
natural hybrid between Dzongu Golsey and Ramsey. They are susceptible to
Chirke and Foorkey viral diseases.
This cultivar grows in low, medium, and high altitude areas in South
Regu (East Sikkim) and at high altitudes at Gotak (Kalimpong subdivision
in Darjeeling district of the State of West Bengal). Its yield performance is
THE AGRONOMY AND ECONOMY OF CARDAMOM
exceptionally high at higher altitude areas, that is, 1500 m amsl. It is a robust
type and total tillers may range from 60 to 150. Color of tillers resembles
that of Ramsey, that is, maroon to maroonish‐green toward the collar zone.
Girth of the tillers is more than that of Ramsey. Each productive tiller on an
average produces almost three spikes with an average of 20 capsules/spike.
Size of capsules is bigger and bold with 50–65 seeds. Harvest begins in the
last week of October. This cultivar is also susceptible to both the viral
diseases Chirke and Foorkey.
This cultivar is grown in basar area of Arunachal Pradesh. The plant has
unique features of rhizome and tillering. The rhizome rises above the ground
level with roots penetrating deep into the soil, and the young tillers are
covered under thick leafy sheath. It is supposed to be tolerant to Foorkey
viral disease. The spikes have relatively long peduncle (10–15 cm) and the
capsules are bold, red brown, or light brown; seeds contain low level of
essential oil (2% v/w) (Dubey and Singh, 1990).
Seremna (Sharmney or Lepbrakey)
This cultivar is grown in small pocket at Hee‐Gaon in west Sikkim at low
altitude and is known for its high‐yield potential. Plant features are almost
similar to Dzongu Golsey, but the leaves are mostly drooping, hence, the
name Sharmney (the root of the word Sharm in Hindi means modesty in a
female with bowed head). Total tillers range from 30 to 49 and is not robust
in nature. On an average, two to three spikes emerge from each productive
tiller with an average of 10.5 capsules per spike, each having 65–70 seeds.
The comparative morphological characters of the four most important
cultivars, namely, Ramla, Ramsey, Sawney, and Golsey are given in
Tables LX and LXI.
C. PLANT PROPAGATION
Propagation of large cardamom is done through seeds, rhizomes (sucker
multiplication), and tissue culture techniques. Cultivars suitable for specific
areas, altitudes, agroclimatic conditions, and mother plant/clump of known
performance are selected for collection of seed, rhizome, and vegetative bud.