|Medicine, spice: fruit
Amomum sp. s,kdcoj'
Amomum villosum Lour., mark naeng daeng, red capsules, common (syn: Cardamomum villosum (Lour.) Kuntze)
A. ovoideum Pierre ex Gagnep., mark naeng khiaw, green fruit capsules, only in the North
A. villosum Lour. var. xanthoides (Wall. ex Baker) T.L. Wu & S. Chen (Synonym: A. xanthoides Wall. ex Baker), mark naeng khouang tung, capsules, introduced from China, Phongsali
Related species: Amomum krevanh (Thai cardamom), Elettaria cardamom (India)
Other names: Thai: reo, kravanh, mark naeng. Cambodian: krakor sa, krakor momis. Vietnamese: sa nhan, mu tre ba, duong xuan sa. Chinese: sa ren (seeds), sa ke (fruit shells). English: tavoy cardamom, bastard cardamom, amomum fruits, grains of Paradise.
Remark: Indigenous names vary for each locality so local species are still not clearly identified. Cardamom species are easily confused botanically and not described well.
Also called the queen of spices and has been used since ancient times. The aromatic pods can be green, white or black.
Use: Little local use and mainly traded. In China, amomum fruits are an important ingredient in various medicines. The fruit is pungent in taste and warm in nature, and therapeutic for the intestines. The white cardamom oil (from the seeds) is a pleasant volatile oil that promotes appetite. It is also chewed like nuts as a breath and tooth cleaner. White cardamom is also a popular spice worldwide. Pods and seeds are used in different types of sweet or savoury Thai dishes, especially in curries.
Active ingredients: The fruits contain aromatic oil, camphor, acetate, limonene, and other esters.
Harvesting: Fruits are picked from the rhizome for a period of 15-30 days. Local people determine harvestable fruits by peeling the shell to observe dark red colour of fruit and deep purple seed. Pre-mature harvesting of wild immature fruits leads to low product quality and more moulding.
Yields, densities: In Champasak, densities of planted 12,000-25,000 stems/ha yields 80-200 kg/ha fresh weight, equivalent to 14-40 kg/ha of dry fruits. Best yields are generally obtained 4-5 years after planting, but stands continue to yield sustainable up to 50 years or more. An average of ca. 108 kg of fresh wild cardamom can be harvested per family each year, for 4 days à 5 kg per person per day. Richer villagers tended to harvest more than poorer villagers. The average yield ranges from 165-330 kg/ha. In a case study it was found that green cardamom yields less but receives better prices.
Access rules: Naturally growing it can be used by all. In some cases village committees set commencement dates of NTFP gathering for fruits. Planted it is property of the planter.
Sustainability: Harvesting of fruits has little effect on mother plant or on regrowth, as natural propagation is mainly through rhizomes. Competition for harvest may result in pre-mature harvests and uprooted rhizomes decreasing off-takes following season. This means that parts of the rhizome should be left for regeneration. Regeneration is within 2 years.
Conservation status: The amount of people collecting cardamom has decreased because of low prices, but also because of declining availability in the wild.
Processing: Drying of unpeeled fruits is usually in the sun or over wood fires or in ovens, to avoid reduction of oil. Because harvesting takes place in the wet season, the product suffers from moulding due to insufficient drying. Storage in ventilated room is therefore recommended. Stored in a glass jar, cardamom pods will stay fresh indefinitely. In China fruits are processed into essential oils. In Thailand seed oil is obtained by water distillation.
Quality criteria: Dry, clean fruits, still in their capsules to preserve taste. 3 grades: 1. mature blue-black, 2. over-mature black and 3. broken fruits.
Marketing: In the mid-late 90’s, after coffee, cardamom was the 2nd most important agricultural export product of Lao PDR. It contributed largely to rural household cash income. Between 1995-1999 on average 285 tonnes, at US$4.80/kg was exported. Villagers generally received between US$0.6-1.6/kg for dry cardamom, and per year on average US$18 per family. Until 1993 the export price for dried cardamom was relatively stable at about US$7/kg, prices have dropped since to ca. US$0.4-5/kg in 2002-2004. The average day wage to harvest 0.8 kg cardamom for a villager in Nam Phaeng village, Oudomxay, is calculated at US$3.7/day (1998), in Savannakhet this is currently ca. US$1.3/day. In Yunnan about 13,000 ha are cultivated in agroforestry systems, after major depletion of natural resources there. It might well be that these areas are now competing with the price for the products from Laos. At present 1,000-1,800 tonnes/year are exported, mostly to China, but also to Korea, Thailand and Vietnam in recent years. In China cardamom is sold as a single herb extract for US$17.4/100 gram.
Market prospects: Demand on Chinese medicine market seems to be growing. Main improvements could be made in timely harvesting, more efficient drying and dry storage methods. Distilling cardamom oil could be promising. Sometimes cardamom is imported back into Lao PDR in the shape of vials or gelatine pills. Prices for wild cardamom is reported to be significantly lower than of planted cardamom, possibly due because the lower quality of wild cardamom. This has led to the deterioration of cardamom agro-forestry systems in Lao PDR. Cultivated in China in a system of rubber and cardamom yields in 4 times the annual revenue than that of rubber alone.
Propagation: Ripe fruits are dried and the shell peeled-off, because stored unpeeled seeds have a lower germination rate. Cardamom is often propagated by cuttings from stolons and rhizomes. Young rhizomes 10-20 cm in height with 1-2 leaves, prior to flowering are selected and collected from plants in natural forest, and planted in May-June. Good fencing and shading is essential. Domestication under shade trees or enrichment planting in forest is common in Champasak and Salavan provinces, especially of red cardamom. In Oudomxai domestication trials have also started with mark naeng khouang tung with seed from China via Phongsali. Cardamom sprouts 2–3 years after burning field for swidden agriculture, an additional period of three years or more is required before fruits can be gathered.
Description: Perennial thick rhizomatous herbs, 2-4 m high. Leaf simple, alternate, narrowly lanceolate, ca. 7 cm wide, 50 cm long. Inflorescence arising from rhizome, flowers 2 per time to about 15, white. Fruit oval, spiny red capsule, 2 cm long, seeds brown and angular, camphor-like odour.
Distribution & Ecology: Found throughout Laos, but not abundant, in moist places in mixed and secondary deciduous or evergreen forest. In the north A. ovoideum and A. villosum, and the unidentified mark naeng hua lohrn. In the south red cardamom, green cardamom, mark naeng khar khohm and mark naeng pheuan. Propagation is mainly in the south. Cardamom needs shade to grow well. Also found in India, southern China, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Malaysia.
References: FR97, PMC52, MPT96, INTFP01, NTFPCP00, SNTFP99, RoF04, ARCBC, BBSL02, NTFPUMT, NTFPPR04, SINTFP03, ARCBC, PROSEA, BKF, TPN, VILAY, IBP98, NTFPRL04, MPV93, CLP04, FES04, LSUAFRP1/2.