Some authorities treat the genus as containing only one species Elettaria cardamomum, while others separate Sri Lankan plants out as a separate species Elettaria repens Sonner. Common names include Green Cardamom, True Cardamom, and (E. repens) Ceylon Cardamom; in Hindi it is Elachi or Elaichi in malayalam Ellaykka.
It is a pungent aromatic herbaceous perennial plant growing to 2–4 m in height. The leaves are alternate in two ranks, linear-lanceolate, 40-60 cm long, with a long pointed tip. The flowers are white to lilac or pale violet, produced in a loose spike 30-60 cm long. The fruit is a three-sided yellow-green pod 1-2 cm long, containing several black seeds.
The green seed pods of the plant are dried and the seeds inside the pod are used in Indian and other Asian cuisines either whole or in a ground form. It is the most widely cultivated species of cardamom; for other types and uses, see cardamom.
Ground cardamom is an ingredient in many Indian curries, and is a primary contributor to the flavour of masala chai. In the Middle East and Iran, cardamom is used to flavour coffee and tea. In Turkey, it is used to flavor the black Turkish tea (Kakakule in Turkish).
As well as in its native range, it is also grown in Nepal, Vietnam, Thailand, and Central America. In India, the states of Sikkim and Kerala are the main producers of cardamom; they rank highest both in cultivated area and in production. It was first imported into Europe c.1200 CE.