Cardamom [German version]

Table of contents

Product information
  Container transport
  Cargo securing

Risk factors and loss prevention:
Temperature Odor
Humidity/Moisture Contamination
Ventilation Mechanical influences
Biotic activity Toxicity / Hazards to health
Gases Shrinkage/Shortage
Self-heating / Spontaneous combustion Insect infestation / Diseases

Product information

Product name

German Kardamom, Elettaria
English Cardamom
French Cardamome
Spanish Cardamomo
Scientific Fructus cardamomi of Elettaria cardamomum
CN/HS number * 0908 30 00

(* EU Combined Nomenclature/Harmonized System)

Product description

Cardamom is one of the most significant, valuable spices in the world. It consists of the small, highly aromatic pods or seed capsules of a perennial plant of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae) native to India. The fruit capsules, which are collected just before maturity, are three-sided, 8 – 25 mm long and 2 – 4 mm wide and have three compartments containing a total of 15 – 20 seeds (2 – 4 mm in diameter).

The term spice is used to refer to plant parts which serve to improve the odor and flavor of foods. They contain essential oils and other ingredients which have a strong seasoning action.

Spices are processed, cleaned, graded and carefully packaged for overseas dispatch in the countries where they are cultivated. They are dried to preserve them for transport and storage. In consumer countries, they are delivered to spice mills, where they are cleaned and graded again, ready for sale in unground or ground form.

Spices are classified by the plant parts used:

Fruit and seed spices (e.g. pepper, cardamom, nutmeg)
Bud and flower spices (e.g. cloves)
Bark spices (e.g. cinnamon)
Root spices (ginger, turmeric)
Leaf spices (bay leaf)

Oil content: 3.0 – 8.0% essential oils [1], in particular cardamom oil, which has a high cineole content.

The fatty oil content is approx. 2% [4].

Quality / Duration of storage

Green fruit capsules are harvested before they are fully mature and dried in curing installations, so ensuring that they retain their green color („greens“). These are the highest grade cardamom pods, the best quality coming from Guatemala.

Fruit capsules that have matured to a yellow color are harvested at this stage and dried in the sun („yellows“). They have a tendency to burst open readily, entailing a loss of essential oils.

In addition to the whole fruits, cardamom seeds and husks are also commercial products. The 2 – 3 mm seeds range in color from white through brown to black, and are the most valuable form of the spice.

High grade cardamom comes from southern India, Guatemala and Tanzania. Lower grades come from other countries of Asia, such as Sri Lanka, Thailand or northern India.

In general, the weight in grams per liter and the color are decisive in determining quality. The proportion of burst fruit capsules („open pods“) also determines quality, as do color (green or yellow) and drying method (mechanical or sun).

Provided that the recommended storage conditions are complied with, cardamom may be kept for up to 12 months. „Greens“ have the best shelf life, as the intact fruit capsule provides the best protection for the seeds. Unprotected seeds readily lose essential oil.

The fruits must contain at least 4% and the seeds at least 3% essential oil.

Intended use

Cardamom is used as a spice primarily in Christmas baking, sausage mixtures, curry powder (for many Indian dishes and rice) and in the liqueur, flavors and fragrances and pharmaceutical industries.


(Click on the individual Figures to enlarge them.)

Photo, cardamom

Figure 1
Photo, cardamom

Figure 2
Drawing, cardamom

Figure 3

Countries of origin

This Table shows only a selection of the most important countries of origin and should not be thought of as exhaustive.

Africa Tanzania
Asia India (Malabar coast), Sri Lanka, Thailand, Papua New Guinea
America Guatemala, Honduras

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Because of the high value of cardamom, it is predominantly packaged in double-layered bags (42 – 50 kg) and is only seldom still transported in boxes.

Ever more frequent use is made of single ply fabric bags lined with polybags, black polybag liners being used for the better, green grades to protect them from light.

Premium grades from Guatemala for example are shipped in 5 kg cartons, 8 of these cartons in turn being packaged in a master carton.

Cardamom husks are sometimes shipped in compressed bales of up to 300 kg or loose in bags.

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Symbol, general cargo

General cargo

Means of transport

Ship, truck, railroad

Container transport

Standard containers may be used, subject to compliance with lower limits for water content of goods, packaging and container flooring.

Cargo handling

In damp weather (rain, snow), the cargo must be protected from moisture, since this may lead to mold, spoilage and self-heating.

Hooks must not be used in handling bagged goods as they subject the bags to point loads, so damaging them. Due to their shape, plate or bag hooks apply an area load and are thus more suitable for handling bags.

Stowage factor

3.00 m3/t (double-layered jute fabric bags, 51 kg) [1]
2.65 m3/t (boxes) [11]
2.09 – 2.93 m3/t (bags) [11]
2.60 – 2.72 m3/t (52 – 64 kg boxes) [14]
3.00 m3/t (16 kg boxes from Sri Lanka) [14]

Stowage space requirements

Cool, dry, good ventilation


Fiber rope, thin fiber nets, wooden dunnage

Cargo securing

In order to ensure safe transport, the cargo must be stowed and secured in the means of transport in such a manner that it cannot slip or shift during transport. If loss of volume and degradation of quality are to be avoided, the packages must not be damaged by other articles or items of cargo.

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Risk factors and loss prevention

RF Temperature

Cardamom requires particular temperature, humidity/moisture and possibly ventilation conditions (SC VI) (storage climate conditions).

Favorable travel temperature range: 5 – 25°C [1]

Cardamom should be transported in areas which exhibit the lowest temperatures during the voyage and are dry. In any event, storage beneath the weather deck or, in the case of shipping in containers, in the uppermost layer on deck, must be avoided as the deck or container is strongly heated by the intense tropical sun and, at temperatures of > 25°C, essential oils may be lost.

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RF Humidity/Moisture

Cardamom requires particular temperature, humidity/moisture and possibly ventilation conditions (SC VI) (storage climate conditions).

Designation Humidity/water content Source
Relative humidity 60 – 70% [1]
Water content 10 – 12% [1]
13% [28]
Maximum equilibrium moisture content 65% [1]

Cardamom must be protected from all forms of moisture (rain, seawater, condensation water).

Spices are hygroscopic goods (hygroscopicity), which interact with the moisture in the air. The risk of mold growth is naturally at its greatest in warm, damp air. The cargo may become musty, and the risk of self-heating increases with an elevated air moisture content.

Cardamom should be protected from relative humidities > 75% and direct exposure to moisture, as the outer capsules may become discolored (blackening). The risk of mold growth is particularly marked at such levels of humidity.

Mold-damaged goods inevitably lose value. Moisture-damaged goods should therefore be separated from undamaged goods as soon as possible [13].

In order to prevent condensation on the ship’s side or container walls from affecting the cargo, care should be taken to leave an adequate gap between the cargo stack and the ship’s side.

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RF Ventilation

Cardamom requires particular temperature, humidity/moisture and possibly ventilation conditions (SC VI) (storage climate conditions).

If the product is at „shipping dryness“, it does not have to be ventilated during transport. However, if the water content does not meet these guidelines, the following ventilation measures should be implemented to eliminate the potential for dampness:

Recommended ventilation conditions: air exchange rate: 6 changes/hour (airing)

In order to avoid formation of mold, the stowage space should be cool, dry and, most particularly, easy to ventilate.

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RF Biotic activity

Cardamom displays 3rd order biotic activity.

It is among those products in which respiration processes are suspended. Nevertheless, biochemical, microbial and other decomposition processes still proceed in such products and must be taken into consideration.

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RF Gases

No risk.

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RF Self-heating / Spontaneous combustion

An elevated moisture content and excessively high temperatures create a risk of self-heating.

Oil content: 3.0 – 8.0% essential oils [1], in particular cardamom oil, which has a high cineole content.

The fatty oil content is approx. 2% [4].

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RF Odor

Active behavior Cardamom has a strong, pleasant, aromatic odor and a delicate, spicy flavor.

When transporting spices, it is important to retain the content of essential oils to the greatest possible extent, since these substances, together with other constituents, such as fatty oils, tannins and bitter principles, determine the odor and flavor and thus quality of the spices.

The essential oils are readily volatilized and the seasoning action of the spices is consequently reduced. Volatilization of the essential oils is primarily determined by temperature. The higher is the ambient temperature, the more the essential oils are volatilized, as may be recognized by the intense odor in the hold.

Due to the readily volatilized essential oils, spices should be stowed separately from each other and away from foodstuffs which readily absorb foreign odors (e.g. coffee, tea, tapioca, sago).
Passive behavior Cardamom is sensitive to goods with an unpleasant and/or pungent odor and should therefore not be stowed together with odor-emitting products (e.g. chemicals or cheese).

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RF Contamination

Active behavior Cardamom does not cause contamination.
Passive behavior Cardamom is sensitive to contamination by dust, dirt, fats and oils.

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RF Mechanical influences

Cardamom is sensitive to mechanical stresses If the outer fruit husk of the pods is broken as a result of rough handling, aroma is lost.

With bagged cargo, point loads applied for example by hooks may result in damage (tears) to the bags and thus in loss of volume. Plate or bag hooks, which, due to their shape, distribute the load and reduce the risk of damage, should thus be used.

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RF Toxicity / Hazards to health

No risk.

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RF Shrinkage/Shortage

Weight loss may occur as a consequence of the natural drying of goods which were harvested too early and due to the action of heat.

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RF Insect infestation / Diseases

Consignments of cardamom may be infested by flour beetles, merchant grain beetles, almond moths and tobacco beetles.

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