CARDAMOM, the fruit of several plants of the genera Elettaria and Amomum, belonging to the natural order Zingiberaceae, the principal of which is Elettaria Cardamomum, from which the true officinal or Malabar cardamom is derived. The Malabar cardamom plant is a large perennial herb with a thick fleshy root-stock, which sends up flowering stems, 6 to 12 ft. high. The large leaves are arranged in two rows, have very long sheaths enveloping the stem and a lanceolate spreading blade 1 to 2 ft. long. The fruit is an ovate-triangular, three-celled, three-valved capsule (about 1/5 in. long, of a dirty yellow colour) enclosing numerous angular seeds, which form the valuable part of the plant. It is a native of the mountainous parts of the Malabar coast of India, and the fruits are procured either from wild plants or by cultivation throughout Travancore, western Mysore, and along the western Ghauts. A cardamom of much larger size found growing in Ceylon was formerly regarded as belonging to a distinct species, and described as such under the name of Elettaria major; but it is now known to be only a variety of the Malabar cardamom. In commerce, several varieties are distinguished according to their size and flavour. The most esteemed are known as "shorts," a name given to such capsules as are from a quarter to half an inch long and about a quarter broad. Following these come "short-longs" and "long-longs," also distinguished by their size, the largest reaching to about an inch in length. The Ceylon cardamom attains a length of an inch and a half and is about a third of an inch broad, with a brownish pericarp and a distinct aromatic odour. Among the other plants, the fruits of which pass in commerce as cardamoms, are the round or cluster cardamom, Amomum Cardamomum, a native of Siam and Java; the bastard cardamom of Siam, A. xanthioides - the Bengal cardamom, which is the fruit of A. subulatum, a native of Nepal; the Java cardamom, produced by A. maximum; and the Korarima cardamom of Somaliland. The last-named is the product of a plant which is unknown botanically. Cardamoms generally are possessed of a pleasant aromatic odour, and an agreeable, spicy taste. On account of their flavour they are much used with other medicines, and they form a principal ingredient in curries and compounded spices. In the north of Europe they are much used as a spice and flavouring material for cakes and liqueurs; and they are very extensively employed in the East for chewing with betel, etc.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)