Originating from India, cardamom, Elettaria cardamomum, is a plant which is used as a spice.
Elettaria is the latinised form of the name of the plant (ëlam / elakkai) in various East-Indian languages. Cardamomum is the contraction of Greek word kardamon: cress and Latin word amomum: Indian spice plant, referring to the use of the species as spice.
Description and flowering period
This herbaceous perennial reaches 2 to 5 meters in height. Its rhizomes (underground stems) are thick and ramified. They bear infertile leafy stems as well as leafless inflorescences. The lanceolate alternate leaves, measure between 40 and 60cm long. The flowers are white tinged with pink. The fruit is a three-lobed capsule containing brown seeds which are the only aromatic part of the plant. However, in order to better preserve the seeds, the whole fruit is harvested and dried.
- Food & drink: The seeds are used as a spice in Indian, Asian and Middle-Eastern cooking. In Europe it is added to red wine to make hippocras. In the Middle-East it is frequently added to teas and coffees for its aroma and to neutralise the effects of caffeine.
- Medicinal: It is used to treat bucco-dental infections and pulmonary inflammations, to ease digestion, for its stimulating and mood-enhancing properties (some even consider it an aphrodisiac). It is also used in aromatherapy for its antiseptic properties.
Translated by: François Saint-Hillier – MNHN