PLANTING AND CULTIVATION One or two year old seedlings are planted in each pit, either in June-July or September-October. The rhizome is planted 5-8 cm securely tied to a stout wooden stake to prevent it from being laid low by the strong monsoon rains and winds.
The plantation recieves atleast four weedings in the first year, three in the second year and two annually thereafter. The clearing, digging and manuring of soil in each clump, filling up gaps, and the lopping of shade trees constitute the main cultivation practices. Each clump requires a heavy doze of cattle manure or leaf-compost. A well developed mould or a well marked layer of humus accumulation is essential for the development of the plant. On large estates, castor-cake, bone-meal, fish-manure, ammonium sulphate and muriate of potash are commonly used to provide 30-40 kg of N, 30 kg of P2O5 and 50-60 kg of K2O per ha. The application of dolomite also helps also helps to correct the soil pH. Though specific experimental evidence on the fertilizer requirements of cardamom is not available and, whatever information that is available shows that the cardamom crops needs a judicious application of potassium. In general, fertilizer to supply 30 kg of P2O5 and 60 kg of k2O per ha. appear to be necessary for the healthy and vigorous growth of the crops.
VARIETIES. Based mainly on the size of fruit, 2 major groups of cardamom plants are recognised in India, viz. Elettaria cardamom maton var. major, comprising wild indegenious types, and Elettaria cardamomum var. minor, the cultivated type. The common cultivated varieties are ‘Malabar’, ‘Mysore’ and ‘Ceylon’. The first two alone are widely grown in southern India. ‘Vazhukka‘ is supposed to be a cross between ‘Malabar’ and ‘Mysore’ types. A few other types are also raised over areas. Of these, ‘Kannielam‘, cb onsidered to be early-bearing, is grown at lower elevations (750 m above the mean sea-level) in the Ernakulum district. Three other types worth mentioning, are the ‘Munzerabad’ and ‘Bijapur’ varieties grown at lower elevations in north Wynad and Nadan in the Quilon district. The ‘Malabar’ type is characterized by plants of medium size, with prostrate panicles and small ovoid and round capsules with leaves pubescent on the under-surface. This variety is cultivated largely in Coorg and other parts of Karnataka and to some extent in Kerala. The plantsof the Mysore type have robust growth, large leaves with smooth-under surface, erect panicles and large round capsules. It is suited for cultivation at higher altitudes and is grown largely in Kerala and in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. ‘Ceylon’ is another robust variety. It has large but less aromatic seeds. The ‘Vazhukka’ type has deep-green leaves, is as robust as the ‘Mysore’ type with flexuous panicles and and elongated capsules. The ‘Malabar’ type is considered to be more tolerant to thrips and less sensitive to light than the ‘Mysore’ type which, in certain areas, is preferred for the shape and size of its fruits. Different combinations of the above two broad groups of chaaracters are observed in other types and varieties.
Selections based on yield, quality and earliness in bearing have been made at Mudigere and Pampadumpara and these lines are under initial evaluation.
HARVESTING. Cardamom comes into bearing in the third year after planting, though an economic crops is usually obtained only from the fourth year onwards. Flowering starts in April-May and continues till August-September or even later, depending upon the weather conditions. it takes 3 or 4 months to form fruits, which mature at intervals of 30-40 days, nesseciating several pickings and the whole harvest is completed in 5 or 6 rounds. In most areas the peak-harvesting season is October-November. In Kerala and Tamil Nadu, harvesting starts fron August-September and continues till February-March, whereas in Karnataka, it starts in July-August and continues and continues up to December-January. Capsules along with peduncles are harvested just short full ripeness. Dead-ripe fruits split on the drying floor whereas the unripe fruits shrivel on drying. The average yeild of dry capsules from a well-maintained plantation is about 100-150 kg per ha. From small gardens which are not properly managed, it is about 25 kg.
CURING. The preparation of cardamom for the market consists in harvesting, drying, sorting, bleaching, etc. These processing activities have an important bearing on the quality of the finished product.
After harvesting, the produce is dried either in the sun or in the specially built drying houses by using radiated heat. For the latter, the devices vary from sheltered mud platforms heated by a slow fire from beneath to large drying-houses to kilns heated by fuel pipes, as is mostly done in large plantations. The fruits kept for drying are spread out thinly and stirred frequently to ensure uniform drying. Sun-drying takes 3-5 days, whereas in the case of artificial heating, it takes only about 48 hours for proper drying. The latter process also helps to retain the green colour of the capsule which is much valued, especially in the Middle-East. The dried capsules are rubbed by hand or with a rough coir matting or with a piece of wire-mesh and winnowed to remove other plant residues and foreign matter. They are then sorted according to their size and colour. Since green capsules fetch a premium price in foreign markets, it is essential to retain this colour as far as possible. For this purpose, various methods have been tried. Soaking the capsules of freshly harvested green cardamom in two per cent washing-soda solution for 10 minutes before drying to less than ten per cent moisture level and storing in gunny bags lined with two layers of polythene helps to preserve green colour effectively for 6-9 months. Similarly, bleached cardamom constitutes a distinct trade quality. Bleaching is done by exposing the dried capsules to the action of sulphur dioxide produced by burning sulphur.
PEPPER (Piper nigrum L.) is one of the most important and the earliest known spice crops of India. It is a perennial climbing vine belonging to the family Piperaceae and is indegenous to the west coast of southern India. Pepper cultivation is mainly confined to Kerala,Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and to a limited extent to Assam and West Bengal. Very recently, pepper has been cultivated successfully in Andhra Pradesh and the Andamans. Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil, Sri Lanka and Cambodia are the other pepper-producing countries. The black pepper and the white pepper-producing countries of commercial are the dried and processed berries and have a very prominent place in the world market. Pepper is used as a flavouring agent for food-stuff and also carminative. The alkaloid piperine forms 5 to 8 per cent by weight of the seed and the volatile pepper oil forms 1 to 3 per cent of the unripe berries.