While early historical expeditions refer to cardamom, there is confusion about its use in cookery. There is mention of Ela, which is cardamom in the old medical treatise attributed to Charaka and Susruta, of first century A.D. By 16th century, with sea routes being established between India and Europe, there are clear mention of cardamom from Malabar.
Cardamom is regarded as the third most expensive spice after saffron and vanilla. It is the dried fruit. The plant is perennial herbaceous with creeping root stock and 2 distinct aerial growth of leaves and flower (fruit) shoots. Fruits are elongated and green in colour when harvested. Seeds are numerous. When dried it is the seed that is the source of essential oil and sweet aroma. Cardamom thrives well in high attitude of over 1000 meters above sea level. India and Guatimala are the major producers. On an average husk contributes to 30 to 35% and seeds 65 to 70% of the capsule. Seeds contain 6 to 7% of essential oil. α Terpineol and linalool both free alcohols and esters along with 1-8 cineole contribute to the sweet aromatic odour. But excess cineole gives an unwelcome camphoraceous note.
Cardamom as a flavour is highly liked in sweets, milk products and masalatea. It is also used in savory foods like biriyani and meat curries. In the early days of export to Europe, because of sun drying of pale green roundish cardamoms produced in Karnataka regions and poor storage and transport conditions, much of the capsules get bleached. Scandinavian countries, in particular, used to patronize bleached cardamoms especially for use in pastories and puddings. It is the Gulf countries especially Saudi Arabia which promoted use of green cardamom probably because green colour is significant to Muslims. More greenish varieties, as is cultivated in Kerala and drying in ovens are required to meet the specification of green cardamom. Green cardamom is used extensively in Gulf countries to makeKova, which is cardamom flavoured coffee decoction.