Large Cardamom (amomum subulatum) is the most important crash crop cultivated in Sikkim and neighboring regions of Darjeeling and Kalimpong. It has also earned the Geographical Indication (GI Tag). India produces about 4200 tons of cardamom annually and with its agro- forestry system. Sikkim contributes 86% of cardamom to nation.
The large cardamom is an ancient spice-cum medicinal herb used by people to treat fevers and other ailments. Lingchom and Geyzing in the west Sikkim are the main cultivators of large cardamon which is considered one of the most important spices in Sikkim. Large cardamom of Sikkim is also one of the main sources of income of the state.
Large cardamom is cultivated mainly in shaded areas and requires moist soil.
Cultivating cardamom has been a traditional practice and a way to earn livelihood for the people of Sikkim. The crop grows well under the shade of forest tree at altitude ranging from 1000-2000 meters with a rainfall of 3000-3500 mm annually. Deep, well drained soil with loamy texture are best suited for cardamom. The soil in Sikkim is generally rich in organic matter and nitrogen. The soil pH ranges from 4.5 to 6.0 even though the crop can be grown in undulating and steep terrains, land with more moderate slope is preferred for the growth of this plant.
Large cardamom of Sikkim has a pungent aromatic flavor due to which it is extensively used for flavoring vegetables and for many food preparations. It is also used as an essential ingredient in mixed spices preparation of foods products. Apart from its aroma, the large cardamom also has high medicinal value. It is rich in Antioxidant and diuretic properties, it may also help to reduce blood pressure. The decoction of seeds is used as a gargle for infections related to the teeth and gums. It is also reported from certain areas that large cardamom seeds are used in preventive as well as curative measures for throat troubles, congestion of lungs, inflammation of eyelids, digestive disorders and in the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis.
All in all this wondrous spice is abundant in flavor, aroma and medicinal value and one must try to use them in their daily lives to benefit from the spice to it’s fullest.