Cardamom is the dried fruit of a perennial herb and belongs to the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. It is often referred as the 'Queen of Spices' because of its very pleasant aroma and taste.
Based on the nature of panicles, three varieties are recognized namely, Malabar with prostrate panicle, Mysore with erect panicle and Vazhukka with semi erect panicle. It is adaptable to widely varying climates and soils, which include warm humid climate and loamy soil rich in organic matter.
Cardamom is common in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, on the shady slopes of the Western Ghats. The Indian cardamom is available in the world markets at different grades such as 'Alleppey Green Extra Bold' (AGEB), 'Alleppey Green Bold' (AGB), and 'Alleppey Green Superior' (AGS).
The spice is used in the preparation of ‘gahwa’ – a strong cardamom coffee concoction which is associated with Arabs. It is widely used as a flavoring material in whole and ground form. Cardamom oil is used in food preparations, perfumery, health foods medicines and beverages.
It is locally known as Chhoti elaichi, Yelakki, Elathari, Velchil, Ela and Elakkai.