Growing Organic Smoked Spice – Black Cardamom
Black cardamom, a perennial herb with high value are the best thing to have indoor or at your home garden. The scent of camphor and distinct smoky flavor makes Black Cardamom one of the most loved spice crops of the world.
Originated in Eastern Himalayas and grown majorly in South Asia, as well as preferred all over the world- This crop has been given various names in various parts of the world. Bengal cardamom in East India, Greater cardamom in the USA, Nepal cardamom in Nepal and Europe, Indian cardamom in India, and Cao guo in China.
Scientific Name: Amomum subulatum
Other names: Hill cardamom, winged cardamom, big cardamom and brown cardamom.
How to grow?
These Zinziberaceae crops are perennial plants with erect stems nearly about 2 feet in length with 3-5cm long pods enclosing seeds.
Take seeds with >12% moisture content and >95% physical purity. Use cultivars depending on the cuisine you prefer. Amomum subulatum favors Indian cuisine while Amomum tsao-ko favors Chinese cuisine.
b) Seed priming:
– If you have pods, soak 4-5 black cardamom pods in water and let sit for 6-7 hours.
– If you have purchased seed in packets from stores, soak seeds immediately in water to avoid moisture loss.
– The water soaking (Hydro-priming) process will enable seeds to imbibe water and help in fast germination.
– After 6-7 hours remove the pods if present and dry the seeds in shade by placing them in tissue paper.
– Black cardamoms are versatile crops with an ability to grow in almost all types of soil but foster in well-drained sandy loam soil.
– The ideal pH for black cardamom is 4.5-5.5.
– Use 100% well-decomposed compost fertilizers only.
d) Climate and environment:
– Cardamoms love shade and moisture, so make sure you are planting them in shady and moist areas.
– If shade is not available one must plant a shady tree in a direction receiving maximum sunlight before 3-4 years of cardamom cultivation.
– If rainfall is inadequate, water your plants or please them with mist time and again.
– You may also use a humidifier which can be a bit costly but is fully automated for your ease. But too cold is also deleterious to Black cardamoms.
Tip: Give them a few buckets of water with the little sun but not the entire ocean or scorching sun.
e) Field preparation:
Earthen up the soil 1-2 months before planting. The hole should of 60cms diameter and 45-50cms deep. Fill the hole with well-decomposed cow dung manure or vermi-compost manure and cover the hole with the earth’s crust.
f) Planting density:
The distance between two holes should be nearly 1.8metres in plain fertile land, 1.5metres in slope land, and in steep, the distance should be 1.2metres. Transplant about 3-4 plants after 1-2 months of soil treatment.
g) Planting time:
– Transplant when the temperature is about 30-35 degrees Celsius in the depth of 4-5cms.
– Planting too deep leads to decay.
– Overwatering leads to rhizome decay so well-drained soil is a must. And sprinkle the water only when the soil is compact, dry and hot.
i) Inter-culture and weed control:
The first weeding operation should be done in 20-25 days after sowing. Second weeding operation should be done in 50-60 days after sowing. Apart from this blanket recommendation, it is best to perform weeding operation whenever the density of weed emergence in field is impeding the efficient growth of main plant.
Lesser the weed, healthier the plant as weeds tend to compete with main plant in terms of space, fertilizers and nutrient requirements.
Major diseases and Control:
1. Name: Mosaic streak disease
Symptoms: Mosaic streaks on leaves which often coalesce and become brown, leaves dry and wither, yield perishes ultimately.
Control: Eradicate and destruct infected clumps, field sanitation.
2. Name: Fookrey disease
Symptoms: Produce a large number of vegetative shoots, small and chlorotic, plants become bushy.
Control: Use disease-resistant varieties, the best ones in your area.
3. Name: Rhizome decay
Symptoms: Yellowing of leaves and stems, Stinky smell from rhizomes ultimately entire plant dies.
Control: Use well sterilized and uninjured rhizome to avoid injury in rhizome which encourages microbial infection.
Major insects and nematodes control:
Symptoms: Whitish blotches that may appear as silvery leaf streaks. The affected tissues later turn dry and yellow ultimately turns brown and die.
Control: Apply contact sprays like Horticultural oils and natural pyrethrins. The underside may be treated with a soap water spray as well.
Detect: Dig the rhizome and check for root damage, tiny whitish eggs.
Control: Soil solarization is one of the best controls.
The flowering will occur after a long wait of nearly 3 years while the rhizomes remain alive for 10-15 years.
How to know if your pods are ready to harvest? (Maturity indices):
Detach the pod from the plant and check the seed color inside. If seeds are black, the capsule is ripe but if the seeds are white, don’t hurry to harvest.
Another index is that the pods ready to be harvested will easily be detached from the plant without much effort.
– Harvest from the base of each stem and move up the stem.
– Harvest seed pods after 30-40 days of flowering and even in the case of commercial farming, hand-harvesting is the only best way of harvesting.
– The highly sensitive plant structure along with the manual harvesting process is the reason why it is sold at a huge $10 – $30 per pound in the world.
– The post-harvesting process of cardamom includes traditional drying procedures over open flames.
Dry the seeds at 18 degrees F in the oven to retain color. But if the oven is unavailable, Sundries the seeds after harvesting but it may highly fade the distinct dark cardamom color.
– Highly anti-oxidant
– Highly anti-bacterial properties
– Rich in diuretic properties that fight low-blood pressure
– Helpful for digestive problems including ulcers
– Has cooling effect in the body
– Relieve acidity
– Treat gastrointestinal diseases like nausea, ingestion, vomiting, and spasms
– Protects from chronic diseases as it has anti-inflammatory effects as well
– Best for commercial production
– Best for urban gardening in shady terraces with well-drained soils as well.
-Helps in the prevention of teeth cavities and in the treatment of bad breath as well.
– Aids in weight-loss.