Elaichi Tree bears Elaichi Fruit. This fruit is commonly known as Elaichi or Cardamom. This spice is derived from the seeds of a number of plants in the genera Amomum and Elettaria. Both of these genera belong to the family Zingiberaceae. Both of these genera are also indigenous to Indonesia and Indian subcontinent regions.
This article focuses on Elaichi tree, propagation, maintenance and uses.
Generally, the seed pods of the trees from these genera are usually small. Having spindle shaped bodies, they are triangular in cross-sections. They also have a thin, paper like outer shell. Naturally, these pods have small, black seeds contained in them.
Amomum pods are larger and have dark brown color. Elettaria pods are smaller and have light green color.
Normally, the Elaichi Tree (Elettaria) grows 10 feet tall. It has rigid stems and almost 2 feet long leaves. It usually regrows every year rooting form its underground mega rhizomes.
Naturally, these tropical trees prefer to grow in partially shaded areas, where soil pH value is about 6.1 – 6.6. In USDA Zones 10 – 11, these plants can be grown as outdoor perennial. In fact, these plants donot grow well other Zones or indoors.
Elaichi Tree – History
In the grammar world, Ancient Sanskrit texts refer to the fruit as “ela”.
For more than 4,000 years, Elaichi trees have been playing a distinct role in human culture. Humans use them as spices in their foods. Also, these spices have high commercial values.
Since the Early Bronze Age, Assyrians and Babylonians have traded this fruit commercially. The famous Greek physicians, Dioscorides and Hippocrates, identified Elaichi’s therapeutic properties. They also recommended it as an aid for digestive problems.
Cardamom trade grew as a lucrative business following huge demands in Rome and Greece. In 126 CE, Alexandria imposed import taxes on cardamom. Venice played an important role as a major importer of cardamom, cinnamon, pepper, and cloves during medieval times.
Arabian subcontinent, Particularly Yemen imported cardamom from India and China as early as the Tenth century. Also, Portuguese involved in the Elaichi trade from the 16th century onwards, as it conquered western part India. However, Europeans seriously focused on the Elaichi trade only from the 19th century onwards.
Elaichi Tree – Propagation
It is advisable to purchase seeds that are prepared specifically for planting. Just opening a few pods and using the raw seeds may not cater to successful germination.
Place the seeds in a large bowl. Pour 2.5 percent nitric acid solution. Stir the mixture well for about 2 – 3 minutes slowly. After that, Pour the mixture into a strainer and rinse the seeds.
Then, place the seeds in a clean bowl and pour lukewarm water. Keep this mixture in normal room temperature for about 12 hours, particularly overnight.
Plant the seeds 1/8 inch deep in soil treated with Humus. Also, make sure to plant them at least 1 /2 inch apart in a partially shaded place.
You can also plant them in a pot initially then transplant them after they attain a matured growth.
Make sure to cover this arrangement with some mulch of grass or straw. You can expect germination in about a month’s time. For more detailed information on germination, refer to the manual supplied with seeds while purchasing.
This is one of the easiest methods to propagate an Elaichi tree. Just dig out the existing tree that is atleast a year old. Using a sharp garden knife, carefully separate the rhizomes from the plant.
You can also cut the rhizomes into several sections and replant them. If the mother plant is infected with cardamom mosaic virus, it will transmit the same to the new plants. This is unavoidable. However, the infected plants can be treated.
Bare Root Plants
You also have a choice of buying the bare-root plants as a whole. If you choose this option, you will have the advantage of planting a ‘Grown plant’. It simply means the maintenance will be comparatively easy. However, purchasing bare-root plants can be difficult in some areas.
How to Care Elaichi Tree
Always take care of the soil moisture. If the soil about to dry, pour some water. Also, do not overwater so as to cause waterlogging. Waterlogging may rotten the roots and cause infectious diseases. Elaichi trees love to grow in partially shaded areas. So, make sure to maintain the planted area always partially shaded.
Elaichi trees are generally accustomed to high humidity. So, mist’ them occasionally with water sprays. Make sure to use good quality Spray bottles for a uniform application’
It is also a best practice to feed these plants with fish emulsion twice a month.
If you have planted Elaichi seeds in a container, transfer it indoors if the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Place it under a filtered bright light for about 7 – 8 hours.
Sometimes, these container-grown plants may get root bound which prevents blooming. If you encounter this situation, divide your plants and grow them in your garden.
Generally, these rhizomes tend to flower in about three years’ time. Interestingly, the normal lifetime of healthy rhizomes is about 15 years.
Indication of Problems in Elaichi Tree
Also, make sure to inspect the Elaichi tree leaves. Yellow leaves are a sign of poor fertilization. It can also refer to iron deficiency. Apply fertilizers to a nominal level to neutralize this problem.
The leaves develop brown spots on their surfaces if the plant is overexposed to the sun. Arrange a shade so that the leaves can slowly recover.
If the Leaf tips turn brown, it is a sign of insufficient watering or low humidity. Increase the water quantity and also increase the misting (water sparing) on the plant.
Growing these plants does require frequent attention. But it is worth and rewarding!
Controlling Pests and Diseases of an Elaichi Tree
You may occasionally notice Black-Winged Insect (thrips), stinging and sucking plant’s sap. Although there are a variety of methods to treat these kinds of pests, we recommend you use a trap. Because this is an economical and easy way of treating normal pests.
There is also a chance for pests to burrow in, lay eggs and damage the roots. Typically, this happens due to various reasons including poor maintenance. As a result, worms (nematodes), plunge out of the roots and stems and the plant may die.
If you happen to encounter such a situation, immediately dig the plant up. Inspect for the severity of the root damage. If the damage is very minimal, it can be rectified with pesticides. If the damage is more than minimal, then destroy the plant as a whole.
After that, Treat the soil with a good quality chemical nematicide. Ensure the pests are completely destroyed before replanting.
Normally, Heathy plants are disease-free. But fungi may develop due to uncleanness or dead plant matter. Use a good fungicide to treat this infection.
Harvesting Elaichi Tree
Normally, the long brackets of white flowers sprout out at stalk ends in matured plants. Sometimes, the flowers may have a light-yellow shade. In about 3 – 4 weeks, these flowers develop seed pods.
Once the Seedpods fully ripen, they begin to split slowly. After that, they begin to release the seeds. Ideally, the perfect time for harvest is just before the splitting commences or just before the seed pods fully ripen.
Normally, the ripened seed pods have black seeds and are easy to pluck. Contrastingly, immature seed pods have white seeds and are often hard to pluck.
There are many ways to harvest. Commercial farming houses use Mechanical ways that include tools or machines. If you are plucking garden trees, you can do so with bare hands with proper Gear.
While doing so, pluck only the seed pods which doesn’t offer much resistance. Because they are the ones that have almost fully ripened. Leave the other pods for another day in near future. Start plucking from the stalk end and move up gradually. Collect them in a bucket.
Preservation of Elaichi Fruit
Wash the collected seed pods thoroughly with plenty of water. Also remove the stems and other attachments.
After that, immediately start the drying process. In this way, you can retain the natural flavor to the maximum extent. Use a dehydrator to dry the seed pods. The temperature setting of the dehydrator should not exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can also choose to dry the seed pods under the sun. In this method, the color of seed pods may fade. If this happens, the commercial value of the cardamom will decrease.
Also, make sure, the moisture content of the final product should not exceed 10 Percent. You can control this using the dehydrator.
Both Elettaria pods and Amomum pods are used as spices in cooking and also in medicine. Elettaria pods are smoked and also used as a masticatory. (Chewing agent, used for pleasure, medicine or to increase saliva flow)
Food and Beverage
In the bakery products, people of Nordic countries often use cardamom. For Instance, they use cardamom in Finnish sweet bread pulla, Scandinavian Yule bread Julekake, and Swedish sweet bun kardemummabullar Etc.,
The Middle east Population uses green cardamom powder as a traditional flavor in their daily tea and coffee. They also use it in their sweet dishes and savory Items.
Cardamom is the main ingredient in Asian foods. For example, Indian and Nepali famous masalas, Thai curry pastes, Sri Lankan flavor curries, Etc., make use of cardamom to attain their popular traditional flavors.
In fact, even the world-renowned companies like Wrigley’s use cardamom in their confectionery products. Similarly, the Korean tea makers use black cardamom in their world-famous offering called “jeho-tang” Tea.
Historically, the ancient Greek physicians favored Elaichi tree and its fruit for the therapeutic properties in their medicine. They used cardamom to treat various digestive disorders.
In fact, cardamom plays a key role in the traditional medicine in some parts of the world including Indian subcontinent. For example, the most famous traditional forms of medicine like Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, etc. use cardamom in their medicine to treat various diseases including stomach disorders and tooth related diseases.