Large Cardamom

Nepali large cardamom (Amomum Subulatum Roxburgh.) – also known as ‘black gold’ or ‘black cardamom’ and locally called alainchi – belongs to the botanical family called Zengiberaceae. Large cardamoms are spindle-shaped pods that are light to dark brown in color. The pods normally vary from 20 mm to 35 mm in size and contain several black seeds inside with a spicy aroma. It is an evergreen, perennial and herbaceous plant grown on north-facing hill slopes. The plant is sensitive to climate and requires temperatures of 15–25 degrees Celsius. It also needs humid conditions and shade and grows between 800 and 2,100 meters.1 Plants survive for 20 to 25 years. They start fruiting from their third year and mature at 8–10 years, with a full fruit-bearing period of 17 to 22 years. This type of large cardamom is grown mainly in the Himalayan region of Nepal, Sikkim in India, and Bhutan.

For centuries, cuisines in families South Asia have used large cardamom for its smoky flavor in their traditional dishes as a symbol of wealth. Compared with the green variety, large cardamom has a very distinct roasted smell and taste, and brownish color, which originates from an ancient drying method. Nepali black cardamom has a distinct flavor profile due to a specific method of postharvest drying in Bhatti ovens, which explains the roasted smell and taste. The smoky flavor would overwhelm a sweet cake or pudding but in a spice rub for roasted meat or in a full-flavored stew it imparts a smoldering depth no other spice can.

Cardamoms produced in Nepal is entirely organic and provide income to mostly low-income families in rural Nepal.