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Tropical Cardamom

December 9, 2016 Back to Picks >

If you enjoy container, try growing cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum), a tropical spice related to ginger. Like ginger, it grows from a thick, fleshy rhizome but the seeds, not the roots, are used to season food. Cardamom seeds are a key ingredient in chai tea and Turkish coffee. The warm, aromatic seeds are also used liberally in Scandinavian cakes and pastries. The shiny leaves are fragrant and can be used to line the surface of a dessert tray for a tropical effect.

In the garden cardamom forms a cluster of foot long lance-shaped leaves. It is a tender perennial and must be protected from freezing weather. For this reason it is best planted in pots that can be brought inside. In its native habitat in the Indian subcontinent it can grow to 10 feet high but you�re likely to have a much smaller plant. Cardamom will thrive if given steady moisture and a warm, moist environment. A greenhouse or similar environment would be ideal. Ditto on a humid bathroom with a morning sun window.

With adequate warmth and moisture cardamom produced two-foot bloom stalks with exotic yellow-lavender flowers. Seeds will form if the flowers are pollinated. To help the process along, try using a Q-tip to transfer pollen.

Cardamom can be propagated by root division. Just be sure you have a stout, sharp knife when tackling the tough roots. You can also grow cardamom from seed � even seed purchased at grocery stores. Use seeds that are brown and have not been bleached. Plant in a moist potting medium and be patient. Cardamom can take 4-6 weeks to germinate.