Cardamom takes a couple of years to reach fruition and generally begins to blossom in the months of April-June and attains the peak of harvest during the months of July-August. Prerequisite for cardamom flowering is cool and humid weather condition. Sole attention of the growers is required for the process of cardamom harvesting since it determines the quantity and quality of the yield. Deficient and erroneous harvesting operation may lead to reduced quality and unripe capsules fetching poor price in the market.
Hence understanding the maturity of the cardamom capsule is extremely essential. Some of the important pointers indicating the maturity of the harvest stages are:
- The capsule shoulders should be highly developed
- Two segments of the shell should be clearly divided and cut in between
- At the point of attachment there is a deep triangular cut
- The capsule is loosely attached to the panicle
- The colour of the seed changes to brownish black or black
The following observations should be noted while harvesting:
- Harvesting on rainy days must be avoided for higher turn out
- The capsules must not be pest infested
- Younger plant capsules will have higher recovery percentage
- The plantation in swamp region will give higher yield
- Production will reach the peak in the months of December-January and thereafter will decline
Reaping of cardamom capsules for the season should begin at the right stage of ripening, failing which, it adversely affects the entire cropping process. There are two kinds of picking ─ light picking and hard picking. Great care is taken during light picking for green and mature capsules, leading to lower green crop per pick. During hard picking, although it accelerates the picking rate, unripe capsules are removed as well as the process impairs the curing percentage. However, hard picking also minimises the chances of fruit drop and yields green colour upon curing. Adoption of light picking technique needs to maintain a gap of 20 to 30 days in between two picking rounds, whereas for hard picking, this gap should be of 30-45 days. Availability of labour also determines the choice of picking. Generally after the completion of fourth round of picking, dry weather begins. In windy weather conditions, the rounds need to be closer and during rainy season the gap between the rounds should be increased by 40 to 50 days to allow the capsules to grow in size. The pickers should be alert about picking the mature and ripened capsules to attain decent development of seed and higher rate of recovery. On the other hand, over ripening can also lead to loss due to squirrels and rodents in the area splits at the time of recovering. This in turn reduces the price of the capsules in the market. Cleaning and washing the cardamom capsules post harvest is necessary for good quality dried cardamom. The harvested capsules must not be kept in storage for effective usage.