Know Your Spices

Elaichi – The Queen of Spice and everything nice 

It would be difficult to find one soul who would pass divine cuppa of rich masala chai. Infused with cardamom, masala chai makes you feel like royalty. It is no wonder then that this royal-tea is extremely popular in India. These small triangular-shaped seed pods are more than just flavour. Their spindle-shaped form is a willowy covering containing small, black seeds. The spice belongs to the Zingiberaceae family. Besides its customary use in sweets and mithai, it is added as a special seasoning to savoury preparations and gravies too. It gives a dish its unique and exquisite aroma.  

With a rightful title of ‘queen of spice’ cardamom is a much sought-after condiment making it the third most expensive spice worldwide but only after vanilla and saffron. Farming of this condiment is known to be lucrative.   

Cardamom or cardamom/cardamomum is made from the seeds of different types of plants in the genera, Elettaria (fresh, green and small) and Amomum subulatum (black/dark brown, dried and bigger than green elaichi). Amomum, well-known as badi eliachi is used more in savoury dishes like biryani and other Mughlai cuisines. From these two varieties of cardamom, the green cardamom is more in demand than badi elaichi, also called Nepal cardamom. 

Setting it apart

Known as a mood lifter, its broad consumption goes beyond culinary preparations. Besides its extensive use in the preparation of delectable dishes, it is widely used as a natural mouth freshener. 

It finds mention in Ayurveda for its immense potential in promoting mental and physical health and also in treating various illnesses. Cardamom has many aliases. In Malayalam it is known as Yelakka in Telugu and Tamil it is Elakkai whereas in Gujarati it is Elchi. 

Cultivation 

The regular green cardamom is obtained from India and Malaysia. It has a lot more medicinal potential than badi elaichi. Black cardamom/badi elaichi is found in the foothills of Eastern Himalayas on the eastern side of Nepal, Sikkim, Darjeeling and Bhutan. It has a minty flavour. 

With the required temperature of 10 – 34 degrees, the elaichi plant is seen in the Western Ghats and is indigenous to the tropical regions of India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan, and Malaysia. These days it is also grown in Guatemala and Tanzania. 

The plant thrives in loamy, fertile soils rich in humus. The drainage system needs to be good and the ideal pH is 4 – 7. 

The best time to prepare for plantation is during cloudy, drizzle days in June – July. The land is dug up to 30cm on which a raised bed is made. Cardamom cultivation is done through seeds or suckers (one young and one mature aerial shoot.) Seeds are collected from a ripe pod. The seeds are repeatedly cleaned and immediately sown. Sowing is done in rows. A mature sucker along with a growing shoot is planted in the pit. One should avoid deep planting. The base of the plant is covered with mulch.  It is necessary to irrigate the crop to get a good yield. Irrigation could be done every 10-15 days till the beginning of monsoon. 

A healthy cheer

The green type of cardamom has lots to offer health-wise and thus, is climbing on the scores list as a healthy spice. Here is why you should reap its benefits. 

The nutritional components in this spice make it a superior spice. It has abundant amounts of healthy fats, proteins and incredible quantities of vitamin B3, vitamin B6, vitamin C, calcium, zinc, magnesium and potassium.  

Powerful antioxidants like flavonoids, quercetin, and plant esters work as useful anti-inflammatory to soothe the mucous membrane, stomach lining and to decreasing acidity. This makes it a natural remedy to combat heartburn and nausea. The antioxidant properties protect us from free radicals, all the while detoxifying and probably cleansing our body from cancer and related diseases. 

How fresh is your breath? 

Bad breath? Maybe it is your indigestion; Root out the problem by popping an elaichi. Its antibacterial properties lend a pleasant smell and also speed up digestion. Furthermore, it eliminates acidity as its essential oils stimulate salivary glands which activate the stomach lining. This improves appetite too. 

Feeling low and lethargic? 

It could be anaemia; Elaichi packs in iron along with copper and other essential vitamins like riboflavin and niacin that can sort it out. It is known to boost up the production of red blood cells and the synthesis of our cells.  

Alleviates respiratory illnesses 

Cardamom amps blood circulation. This decreases breathing problems like flu, cough or asthma.  Hence, it is known as a warm spice in Ayurveda, creating enough heat internally to expel phlegm and relieve chest congestion. 

Oh, your dear heart! 

Being rich in the supply of essential minerals makes cardamom a treasure trove for essential electrolytes.  

Boost your sex life 

Did you know that this small, humble pod can be a potent stimulant for your sex life? It works like a spark to treat sexual dysfunctions like impotency and premature ejaculation. It makes you feel vibrant, thus working wonders in your sex life. 

A twist in your dish

Masala or herbal chai infused with cinnamon is a popular hot tea in India, Bangladesh and Nepal. 

Commonly used in Indian cooking, this condiment is often used in baking, particularly in Nordic countries. From the traditional Scandinavian Yule bread Julekake to delicacies like the Swedish kardemummabullar sweet bun and Finnish sweet bread pulla, cardamom is the ingredient that gives goodies a special twist. 

In the Middle East, powder of green cardamom is used to garnish sweet dishes and even to flavour coffee and tea. In Korea, the medicinal properties are exploited by consuming jeho-tang, their traditional tea.

In Asia, both types of cardamom are widely used in both sweet and savoury dishesIt is also a common ingredient in mixed spices for Indian, Nepali masalas and curry pastes in Thai cuisine 

Fast facts

  • Confectionery giant Wrigley used cardamom in its brand ‘Eclipse Breeze Exotic Mint’ to neutralise the toughest breath odours (as said on the packing.) 
  • Elaichi helps to improve complexion and hair texture. 
  • It is best stored as a whole pod. Ground or powdered seeds lose their flavour rapidly. 
  • According to Ayurveda, elaichi also reduces the air content in the stomach. 
  • In Terhathum District of Nepal, cardamom is considered as a cash crop.  

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