All the cultivars of Large cardamom cultivated commercially belong to the species, Amomum subulatum Roxburgh. Out of the total 150 species of Amomum occurring in the tropics of old world, only about eight species are considered to be native of eastern Sub-Himalayan region viz., A. subulatum Roxb., A. costatum Benth., A. linguiformae Benth., A. pauciflorum Baker, A. corynostachyum Baker, A. dealbatum Roxb. (A. sericeum Roxb.), A. kingii Roxb. and A. aromaticum Roxb (). Later 18 species of Amomum were reported from the north-eastern Himalayan regions (). In the Indian subcontinent itself there is another centre of diversity in the Western Ghats region in the South West India. Gamble (1925) has reported six species from this region.
There are mainly five cultivars of Large cardamom viz., Ramsey, Sawney, Golsey, Varlangey (Bharlangey) and Bebo (). They are well known. Some other sub-cultivars of the above ones (Ramnag, Ramla, Madhusey, Mongney etc.) are also seen in cultivation in small areas in Sikkim State. Another cultivar Seremna or Lephrakey (a Golsey type) is also getting importance and is spreading to more areas in lower altitudes ().
The name Ramsey was derived from two Bhutia words – ‘Ram’ meaning Mother and ‘sey’ for Gold (yellow). This cultivar is well suited for higher altitudes, even above 1500 m. on steep slopes. Grown up clumps of 8–10 years age group possess 60–140 tillers. The tillers color is maroonish green to maroon. Second half of May is the peak flowering season. Capsules are small, the average being 2.27 cm in length with 2.5 cm diameter, with 30–35 capsules in a spike, each containing 16–30 seeds. The harvest is during October–November. Peak bearing of capsules is noticed in alternate years.
This cultivar is more susceptible to viral diseases like foorkey and chirke especially if planted at lower altitudes. It occupies a major area under Large cardamom in Sikkim and Darjeeling district of West Bengal. Two strains of this cultivar viz., Kopringe and Garadey from Darjeeling district having stripes on leaf sheath, are reported to be toler-eant to chirke virus ().
This cultivar got the name from Sawan in Nepali, corresponds to August by which month this becomes ready for harvest at low and mid altitudes. This cultivar is widely adaptable, especially suited for mid and high altitudes i.e. around 1300–1500 m. It is robust in nature and consists of 60–90 tillers in each clump. Color of tillers is similar to Ramsey. Each productive tiller on an average produces two spikes. Average length and diameter of a spike is 6 and 11 cm. Flowers are longer (6.23 mm) and yellow in color with pink veins. Second half of May is the peak flowering time ().
Capsules are bigger and bold and number of seeds in each capsule are more (35) than in Ramsey. Harvest begins in September–October and may extend up to November in high-altitude areas. This cultivar is susceptible to both chirke and foorkey viral diseases. Cultivars such as Red Sawney and Green Sawney derived their names from capsule color. Mongney, a strain found in south and west districts of Sikkim, is a non-robust type with its small round capsules resembling mostly that of Ramsey.
Golsey (Dzongu Golsey)
The name has derived from Hindi and Bhutia words; ‘Gol’ means round and ‘Sey’ means gold. This cultivar is suitable to low altitude areas below 1300 m AMSL especially in Dzongu area in North Sikkim. Plants are not robust like other cultivars, and consist of 20–50 straight tillers with erect leaves. Alternate, prominent veins are extended to the edges of leaves (). Unlike Ramsey and Sawney, tillers are green in color. Each productive tiller on an average produces two spikes. Flowers are bright yellow. On an average each spike is 5.3 cm long with 9.5 cm diameter and contains an average of seven capsules. Capsules are big and bold, 2.46 cm in length and 3.92 cm in diameter and contain about 60–62 seeds. This cultivar becomes ready for harvest in August–September.
Golsey is tolerant to chirke and susceptible to foorkey and leaf streak diseases. The cultivar is known for its consistent performance though not a heavy yielder. Many local cultivars are known in different locations such as Ramnag from north Sikkim. Ram meaning ‘mother’ and Nag for black, which refers to its dark pink capsules. Seto-Golsey is from west district of Sikkim with robust leafy stems/tillers and green capsules. Madhusey with elliptic and pink colored capsules is having robust leafy stem and has sweet seeds compared to other cultivars ().
The plants are tall and vigorous like Ramsey and have capsule characters like Dzongu Golsey; the color of tiller is pink like Ramsey and Sawney. Cultivation is restricted to a few mid-altitude plantations in north Sikkim. The capsules are dark pink with 25–38 seeds per capsule. Ramla appears to be a natural hybrid between Dzongu Golsey and Ramsey. They are susceptible to foorkey but are moderately tolerant to chirke disease.
This cultivar grows in low, medium and high altitude areas in South Regu (East Sikkim) and at high altitudes at Gotak (Kalimpong subdivision in Darjeeling district of West Bengal). Its yield performance is exceptionally high at higher altitude areas i.e. 1500 m and above. It is a robust type and total tillers may range from 60 to 150. Color of tillers is like that in Ramsey i.e. maroonish-green to maroon towards collar zone; girth of tillers is more than that of Ramsey. Each productive tiller on an average produces almost three spikes with an average of 20 capsules/spike. Size of capsules is bigger and bold with 50–65 seeds. Harvest begins in last week of October. This cultivar is also susceptible to foorkey and chirke diseases.
This cultivar is grown in Basar area of Arunachal Pradesh. The plant has unique features of rhizome and tillering. The rhizome rises above the ground level with roots penetrating deep into the soil and the young tillers are covered under thick leafy sheath. It is supposed to be tolerant to foorkey disease. The spikes have relatively long peduncle (10–15 cm) and the capsules are bold, red or brown or light brown; seeds contain low level of essential oil (2 per cent v/w) ().
Seremna (Sharmney or Lephrakey)
This cultivar is grown in a small pocket at Hee-Gaon in west Sikkim at low altitude and is known for its high yield potential. Plant features are almost similar to Dzongu Golsey but the leaves are mostly drooping, hence named as Sharmney. Total tillers range from 30 to 49 and is not robust in nature. On an average 2–3 spikes emerge from each productive tiller with an average of 10.5 capsules per spike, each having 65–70 seeds.
Comparative morphological characters of the four most important cultivars – Ramla, Ramsey, Sawney and Golsey are given in Tables Growth performance of Ramla, Ramsey, Sawney and Golsey cultivars of large cardamom and Capsule characteristics in different cultivars of large cardamom.
Table Growth performance of Ramla, Ramsey, Sawney and Golsey cultivars of large cardamom (average of 3 years)
|Cultivars/Characters||Ramla||Ramsey||Sawney||Golsey||CD at 5% level|
|Plant height (cm)||200.83||192.08||196.00||190.05||6.54|
|Number of tillers per plant||59.08||42.00||40.50||39.80||12.67|
|Number of spikes per plant||40.25||36.00||35.00||30.00||4.70|
|Spike length (cm)||7.06||7.00||6.40||6.50||0.49|
|Spike breadth (cm)||8.60||7.00||6.00||7.20||1.47|
|Number of capsules per spike||16.00||12.00||13.00||14.00||1.12|
|Fresh capsule yield/plant (g)||375.00||185.00||190.00||216.00||14.00|
|Dry capsule yield/plant (g)||70.00||47.00||48.00||52.00||15.90|
Table Capsule characteristics in different cultivars of large cardamom (average of 3 years)
|Cultivars/Characters||Ramla||Ramsey||Sawney||Golsey||CD at 5% level|
|Fresh weight of a single capsule (g)||4.00||3.50||4.00||4.50||0.56|
|Dry weight of a single capsule (g)||0.90||0.75||0.85||1.00||0.14|
|Number of seeds per capsule||38.00||36.00||35.00||40.00||3.28|
|Percentage of volatile oil||2.67||2.50||2.00||1.98||0.48|
Selections from the book: “Cardamom. The genus Elettaria”. Edited by P.N. Ravindran and K.J. Madhusoodanan. Series: “Medicinal and Aromatic Plants — Industrial Profiles”. 2002.