Growing cardamom takes time and patience, as plants take 3 years to reach maturity for harvest and can be finicky to grow. Grow more quickly and easily using rhizomes, or sow germinated seeds shallowly in your garden in fertile soil and partial shade. Keep cardamom plants watered thoroughly, misting plants as needed to replicate their natural, forest environment.
Harvest cardamom flowers for oils when seed capsules turn green, and harvest the seed capsules when they are dry and break easily. Gently remove seeds from broken capsules and store them in an airtight container in a dry, cool, dark place.
What is Cardamom Used For?
Cardamom is an has both culinary and medicinal uses. It’s an Indian-native shrub with relation to ginger, and is known as the “Queen of the Spices” to its Indian people. The black seeds of cardamom are used a spice that can be difficult to describe, but one thing is for sure: it provides an exceptionally unique taste to dishes.
The seeds can also be used as a palate cleanser between meal courses or as an after-meal mouth freshener. Arab-speaking nations use the seeds to grind to make a unique-tasting coffee, and it has become a traditional addition to many Nordic breads and sweets.
Cardamom has notable medicinal properties, making its oil one of the most popular. Its oils have valuable anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties that can curb common body aches and pains and aid in the digestive processes. It can also help treat ailments like bad breath, heart disease, sinusitis, constipation or diarrhea, and more.
Growing Cardamom from Seed or Rhizome
Cardamom can be grown from seed or rhizome, which are the root-like pieces of the cardamom plant that grow underground.
Balcony Garden Web suggests growing cardamom from rhizome, as it is usually easier than growing from seed. You can do this by using a sharp knife to cut the rhizome from the harvested cardamom plant. Ensure that the rhizome isn’t affected by disease from the mother plant, or it can transfer to the new plant. Only use rhizomes that have at least two growing stems.
Seeds take two to three months to germinate, and if not cared for properly, may never do so. To grow from seeds, first wash the seeds thoroughly in warm water to remove the coating. Allow them to dry fully, but keep them out of the sun.
Place an empty glass jar on a tray with a few inches of cold water. Put the seeds in the jar and allow the jar to sit in the cold water until it’s cold to the touch. Pour a nitric solution of 2.5% over the seeds and stir. Allow to sit for a couple of minutes, and drain the solution.
Rinse the seeds thoroughly in warm water in a strainer, then put them in a bowl with lukewarm water overnight. Make sure your garden area is prepared so you can plant them directly into your garden the following morning.
Preparing Your Garden and Planting Cardamom
Cardamom is a finicky plant, and needs the right conditions to thrive. The plants grow best in outdoor tropical conditions: humid, hot, and partially sunny. You may be able to grow cardamom indoors if you have a proper lighting and heat set up, or you can grow it in a greenhouse.
Cardamom needs partial shade or filtered sunlight, as it grows best under the shade of taller trees in its natural environment. Prepare a spot with rich, well-draining soil with a slightly acidic pH of 6.1 to 6.6.
Place seeds slightly below the surface of the soil, several inches apart. You can place a few seeds in each hole for better chance at germination, and thin out plants later, if needed. Water thoroughly after planting.
Caring for Cardamom
WildFilmsIndia shows how cardamom is cultivated in its native land:
Cardamom takes more care than many other things in your garden, especially in terms of watering. Keep plants well-watered, and mist the plants if needed to keep them slightly cooled.
If you live in a location with cold winters, you’ll want to plant cardamom in containers so you can move them indoors for the winter, as they won’t tolerate cold temperatures or freeze. Make sure they are in a location where they’ll receive at least 6 to 8 hours of filtered sunlight, like that from partially-opened window blinds or shades.
The Spice Series suggests feeding your cardamom plants bi-weekly with fish emulsion or phosphorus and potassium as needed. These help provide optimal nutrients for your cardamom to thrive.
Since cardamom is finicky with its water and sunlight needs, it can be difficult not to overwater the plants or give them too little sun. In these conditions, though, cardamom can develop several diseases caused by bacteria and fungi that reproduce in warm, watery conditions.
Capsule rot causes lesions on cardamom plants, making the plant wilt and producing a pungent odor. A fungus caused by overwatered, poorly draining soil lays dormant until it activates in optimal warm, wet weather conditions. If your plants suffer from capsule rot, give the plants less shade and more sun, and bump down the watering schedule slightly.
Damping-off, or rhizome rot, can also kill off your cardamom plants by the fungus that thrives in similar conditions as capsule rot. Remove any infected plants and rhizomes, and treat the garden area with a fungicide.
Harvesting and Storing Cardamom
Cardamom can take about three years to grow to maturity, producing its seed-containing capsules. You can harvest the flower buds when the seed capsules turn green to dry or extract oils from. Dry them on screens for 7 to 10 days, turning them frequently.
Once seed capsules dry out and break easily, you can harvest them from the plant. Carefully break open the seed capsules and shake them on a screen to remove the seeds over a bowl. You can store the seeds in an airtight container in a dry, cool location away from sunlight.