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Processing cardamom

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CARDOMOM PROCESSING OF CARDAMOM (Ellettaria Cardamomum) Elevation: Above 600m Rainfall: 1500-2500mm Spacing: 2 x 2.5m Plants per hectare: 2000

Agricultural and botanical aspects[edit]

A branching perennial herbaceous plant that grows to a height of 3m. As it requires shade it is usually grown under natural forest cover. The inflorescence is on a panicle which arises from the rhizome. The flowers develop in groups of two or three and into oblong green capsules.

Pre-bearing age[edit]

two - three years


By definition, 'processing' does not involve harvesting. However, one cannot produce a good product from badly harvested materials. Correct harvesting techniques could be said to be the most important factor in the production of a high quality final product. One of the main reasons very little cardamom from Sri Lanka is of the top quality grade (Lanka Green) is because of poor harvesting practices. The main problem is immature harvesting.

Immature harvesting[edit]

The main reasons for immature harvesting is the fear of theft. If the crop is picked correctly when it is mature the higher yields and higher value of the final product may offset the losses due to theft. Another reason for immature harvesting is that people cannot wait to pick the crop at the correct time, as they need money urgently. Through extension officers, correct harvesting should be encouraged.

Correct harvesting[edit]

If a cardamom capsule is ripe, it can be detached from the panicle (stem) without undue force. One should work from the base of each panicle until the capsules cannot be removed without applying undue force. A ripe capsule has black seeds inside compared to the white seeds of an immature capsule. Figure 1: winnowing basket Processing of Cardamom Cleaning The crop should be cleaned before processing. The first stage is to remove dust and dirt using a winnowing basket, see Figure 1. This can be made locally from bamboo, palm or other leaves. Someone used to this work can remove the dust, dirt and stones quickly and efficiently (eg they could clean 100kg of cardamom in an eight hour day). Small machines are available for cleaning but they are rarely cost effective. After winnowing the crop needs to be washed in water, all that is needed is two or three 15 litre buckets. For larger quantities a 1m sink/basin with a plug hole needs to be constructed, this can be made out of concrete. However, the water must be changed regularly to prevent recontamination by dirty water. Only potable water should be used. Pre-treatment After the cardamom capsules have been washed, the stalks are removed. Soaking the cardamom capsules in 2-5% sodium bicarbonate for ten minutes improves colour retention. Sodium carbonate is also used in Sri Lanka but there is much dispute whether this method works. Drying This is by far the most important section in the process. The inability to adequately dry the produce will, at the very least slow down the whole process and possibly lead to mould growth. Any cardamom with even a trace of mould cannot be used for processing. The sale value of mouldy cardamom can be less than 50% the normal value. In extreme cases the whole crop can be lost. Green dried cardamom receives a premium in West Asia so drying has to be done in such a way as to preserve the green colour. The drying temperature is 50C. The present system involves allowing the humidity of the drying chamber to build up for 2 hours and then to bring the humidity down. It is thought the initial high humidity 'cooks' the cardamom and inactivates the enzymes that break down the chlorophyll. Also no light is allowed in the drying chamber. There are specially designed cardamom barns for the drying of cardamom. Various cardamom driers can be seen in Figures 2 & 3. Processing of Cardamom Figure 2: Drier Grading In some cases the crop needs to be graded, eg high quality packaged products for export. Cardamom is graded by colour and size and this is done by hand. The deeper the green colour and the larger the capsule, the higher the grade for cardamom. Grinding Figure 3: Tray drier Grinding is a means of adding value to a product. However, it is fraught with difficulties. With a whole product it is easy to assess its quality, whereas with a ground product it is very hard. The fear of adulteration and the use of low quality produce is justified. Because of this there is a great deal of market resistance. This market resistance can only be overcome by consistently producing a good product. Packaging Packaging material Packaging of cardamom, especially if it is ground requires polypropylene. Polythene cannot be used as the flavour components diffuse through it. Processing of Cardamom Simple sealing The bags can be sealed simply by folding the polypropylene over a hacksaw blade and 778drawing it slowly over the flame of a candle. This is extremely uncomfortable as the hacksaw blade heats up and burns the hands of the operator. However, this is a very common technique Sealing machines A sealing machine will speed this operation up considerably and produce a much tidier finish (which is very important). The cheapest sealing machines have no timing mechanism to show when the bag is sealed and they have a tendency to overheat. Sealing machines with timers are desirable. The machines come in many sizes. For most work an 8 inch (20cm) sealer is sufficient . Eye catching labels should be sealed above the product in a separate compartment and holed so the package can be hung up in the shop. Storage A well designed and secure store is essential. The optimal conditions for a store are: low temperature, low humidity and free from pests. The store should be located in a shaded, dry place. To keep humidity as low as possible only fully dried products should be stored in it. The produce should be checked regularly and if it has absorbed too much moisture it should be dried again. To prevent pests entering, the roof should be completely sealed. Mosquito netting should be placed over the windows, and the doors should be close fitting. Standards US Government requirements & ASTA British standard Moisture % <11.0 <13.0 Volatile oil % < 3.0 < 4.0 Extraneous matter (% by weight) 0.5 Mould (% by weight) 1.0 Trade Consumption of world product % West Asia 60 Scandinavia 16 Other European countries 14 USA 2.5 Processing of Cardamom Japan 3.0 Rest 4.5 Uses The major use for cardamom is to make 'Kahwa' coffee in West Asia. In Scandinavia it is used to flavour bread. Equipment suppliers

Note: This is a selective list of suppliers and does not imply ITDG[edit]

endorsement. Sealing machines Doboy Limited 2 Blaydon Road Sandy SG19 1RB United Kingdom Tel: +44 (0)767 82911 Fax: +44 (0)767 291763 Hulme Martin Limited 6 Brownlow Mews Guilford Street London WC1N 2LD United Kingdom Tel: +44 (0)20 7242 5448 Fax: +44 (0)20 7242 2044 Thames Packaging Equipment Company Senate House Tyseen Street London E8 2 ND United Kingdom Tel: +44 (0)20 7254 7132 Fax: +44 (0)20 7241 0559 Gardners Corporation 6 Doctors Lane P B No 299 New Delhi 110 001 India Tel: 344287 Kaps Engineers 831 GIDC Makapura Vadodara 390 010 India Tel: 43178 Samarpan Fabricators Pvt Limited Plot A 182/A 183 Lane Z Road 16 Wagle Industrial Estate Thane 400 604 India Tel: 594842 Shaco Enterprises 161/163 R R Mohan Roy Road Pharthana Samaj Bombay 400 004 India Tel: 364646 Chinar (Pvt) Limited Plot 33 St 10 Sector 1-9 Islamabad Pakistan Tel: 51 411181 FMC Corporation Machinery International Division P O Box 1178 San Jose California 95108 USA China Light Corporation Economic and Technical Co-op Tianjin Company 10 Youyi Road Tianjin China Tel: 756287 750360 Processing of Cardamom Doboy Iberica SA Rio Escalona 25 Valencia 46023 Spain Tel: +96 3619412 Fax: +96 3693239 Adelphi Manufacturing Company Limited Olympus House Mill Green Road Haywards Heath RH16 1XQ United Kingdom Tel: +44 (0)444 440091 Fax: +44 (0)444 440272 AI Packaging Materials Limited 85-105 Stainsley Road London E14 6JT United Kingdom Tel: +44 (0)20 7987 6361 Fax: +44 (0)20 7987 3050