A Historic Take on Cardamom

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Origins of the Spice:

Cardamom is the spice that is the seed contained in the pods of a number of plants in the ginger family. The plant is native to the Western Ghats in India. The particular place of origin of the spice is known by the name of Cardamom Hills. The location is under consideration by UNESCO to be selected as a World Heritage Site. 


Identification of Cardamom in 4th Century BC

Cardamom comes in two varieties. The smaller green cardamom known by the scientific name of Elettaria cardomum. It is extensively grown in the Indian sub continent and south east Asia. When bleached it is known as white cardamom.

The bigger in size, brown or black cardamom or Amomum subulatum is extensively grown in parts of Nepal, north east India and some parts of north Bengal. Both these species of cardamom were first identified and documented in 4th century BC by Theophratus, who is known as the Greek father of Botany. At that moment he was aware of the fact that both the categories of the spice are native to the Indian sub continent.  


Commercial History of Cardamom:

Until the end of the 20th century India was the largest producer of cardamom in the world. In the year 1914, the plant was first introduced in Guatemala by a German coffee planter by the name of Oscar Majus Kloeffer. Since the dawn of the new millennium the country is the largest producer of the spice producing more than 15000 tonnes of the spice annually.

Since the 1980’s there has been an increased demand for cardamom from China, as the spice has been used as a substitute for villosum and tsao ko, both traditional spices used in Chinese cuisine. This increase in demand although, has been mostly fulfilled by small time cultivators residing in hilly regions in some part of China, Laos and Vietnam.


Other Historical References of Cardamom:

Cardamom is among the ingredient used in the coating of the Spice tablets found in the archives of the House of the Sphinxes in Mycenae.

Cardamom finds mention in Ayurveda as a sweet and warming ingredient used for medicinal preparations. It is considered to be excellent for gastrointestinal health and is used as a cure for a number of related problems such as flatulence, nausea and vomiting tendencies.

It is one of the oldest spices known to mankind, with references established of the spice been used by the early Egyptians for its fragrance in ritualistic embalming processes.

Chewing of cardamom seeds and pods as a remedy for bad breath had been known to the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans.

The Vikings discovered and brought home cardamom to Scandinavia during their conquests.      


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Also Read: Amazing Health Benefits of Cardamom



Abhro Bhattacharjee

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