The uses of cardamom
Story and photos by Russ Grayson
I had never seen a cardamom flower before, but there it was — a cluster of bright white blossoms with yellow/red centres at the tip of a spike emerging above the wide, dark green, pointed, strap-like leaves.
This, I was told, was not the cardamom cultivated as a spice. That is a tropical variety whose seeds are processed into the spice familiar to cooks. It is the leaves of this variety that are the useable part. They are used as a food wrapping and flavouring.
The plant was established as a small seedling. Over the years it grew and spread to around a square meter in area by around a metre high. It is a thick cluster of tough leaves atop strong leaf bases emerging thickly from the root mass.
While cutting back the leaves I realised that this member of the ginger family would be one fine barrier plant if established in a close-packed row as a type of living fence. The leaves could be slashed as a mulch or for making compost.
A viable idea?
Cardamom is a tropical plant whose centre of diversity, the region of its natural occurrence, is India. This one I attacked with machete was growing quite vigorously in warm-temperate Sydney.
Unless the community garden includes people with an ethnobotanical interest (ethnobotany, sometimes called ‘economic botany’, is the study of how human cultures make use of plants) who grow specimen plants, and unless it is a large garden where the plant can be used as a barrier or living fence, the limited usefulness of cardamom makes it of questionable value.