- Ethiopian Cardamom
- False Cardamom
The species korarima (scientific name Aframomum corrorima) belongs to the ginger family called Zingiberaceae. Generally, this spice is acquired from the seeds of the plant. Usually, the dried seeds are collected for obtaining the spice, which is widely used in Eritrean and Ethiopian cuisine. Aframomum corrorima plant is indigenous to Tanzania, south-western Sudan, western Ethiopia (in the region of Lake Gelemso and Lake Tana), and western Uganda. This herb is cultivated in Eritrea as well as Ethiopia.
Korarima (Aframomum corrorima) is a perennially growing herb having an aromatic rhizome and leafy stems, each measuring about 1 meter to 2 meter tall. The underground rhizome measures about 3 cm across. The reddish-brown rhizome is plentifully branched and covered with slender and semi-ovate scales measuring about 6 cm x 4 cm and it gives rise to several light brown roots that are fibrous in nature. The stem of the plant does not have any branch and is primarily formed of leaf sheaths, which are sub-terete and measures up to 1 cm across. At the base, the stem is generally thicker and measures up to 3 cm across. The leaves of korarima are simple, distichous and appear alternately on the stem, while the yellowish-green sheaths covers one another are scarious and have prominent veins with ciliate margins. The ligule of this plant is slender, ciliate, and deeply bi-lobed. The lobes are acute, each measuring about 3 cm in length.
The petiole of Aframomum corrorima is anything between 4 mm and 10 mm in length and profoundly grooved above. The shape of the blade or leaf varies from elliptical to oblong and measures 10 cm – 30 cm x 2.5 cm – 6 cm. At the base, the leaves of korarima are obtuse at an angle, cuspidate at the top and have margins all around. The color of these leaves is deep green at the top and lighter green and usually somewhat reddish below. The leaves have lateral fine veins on the downside and are parallel, but arranged pinnately, thereby forming an extremely acute angle with the midrib.
The inflorescence of Aframomum corrorima is a short flower stalk that arises from rhizome, close to the base of the leafy stem. Occasionally, the inflorescence is also found situated at the terminal of a runner that is rhizomatous. While each inflorescence bears as many as five flowers, the peduncle grows up to a length of 7 cm and its apex is covered by purplish-brown, imbricate, semi-ovate scales measuring about 2.5 cm x 1.5 cm. The peduncle bears bracts whose shape varies from ovate to square and it measures about 4.5 cm across. Each flower of the inflorescence is encircled by a scarious, semi-oblong bract measuring up to 6 cm x 2 cm.
The flowers of korarima are bisexual in nature, meaning each flower comprises both the male and female reproductive parts. The calyx of the flowers is spathaceous and measure up to 4.5 cm x 1 cm. The corolla has a tubular shape and is three-lobed at the top. The color of the flowers varies from white to light purple. The tube measures about 4.5 cm in length and is thickly woolly, especially in the top 2 cm portion. The shape of the lateral lobes vary from ovate to oblong and measure up to 4 cm x 2 cm, while the dorsal lobe measures about 4 cm x 3 cm. The outline of the labellum is ovate having half-tubular plump claw measuring about 3 cm x 1.5 cm. In addition, there is another lobe whose shape varies from sub-ovate to orbicular and measures about 3 cm x 3.5 cm. It is slender, somewhat notched and its color is yellow inside the throat. Each flower contains one fertile stamen, fleshy filament, which is somewhat rounded and measuring about 6 mm x 5 mm. The connectivum is fleshy too at the top where there are two lateral horns, each measuring 4 cm in length. Thecae are two in number with a narrowly ellipsoid shape and measuring around 11 mm x 1 mm. The ovary of korarima flower is relatively inferior with 3-locular, very slender, terete styles measuring about 5 cm in length. The stigma of this flower is funnel-shaped and measures 2 mm in width. It is ciliate and positioned on top of the ovary having two (at times even more) plump outgrowths that are believed to be nectaries. These overgrowths (nectaries) are arranged in somewhat embracing the style.
The fruit of Aframomum corrorima is indehiscent, resembling a sub-conical berry and measures about 6 cm x 3.5 cm. Generally, the fruit shows three longitudinal creases, but occasionally there are more furrows. When unripe, the fruits are glossy green and turn vivid red when they are mature. Each fruit contains three cells, which again enclose anything between 45 to 65 seeds each. The seeds of korarima fruits are semi-globose in their outline, but generally slightly angular. The glossy brown fruits measure between 3 mm and 5 mm across. Their testa are finely lined, are hilum circular with a whitish, slender aril. The fruits are somewhat fleshy and cover the seeds completely.
Generally, the seeds of Aframomum corrorima are collected from the wild for both medicinal as well as culinary purposes. In regions outside the plant’s native habitat – northeast Africa, korarima is not well known as a food crop. In Eritrea and Ethiopia, people cultivate this herb for use as a spice. Aside from being easily available in the local markets, this herb is also exported to various countries, especially to ethnic groups.
Seeds, essential oil.
Korarima (Aframomum corrorima) is among the most aromatic therapeutic plants that are used by the inhabitants of southern Ethiopia in their traditional medicine. As far as Ethiopian herbal medicine is concerned, the seeds of korarima are employed in the form of a carminative to deal with flatulence. Korarima has tonic as well as a laxative properties.
The leaves of korarima, both whole and crushed, were employed to rub or wrap the body parts of animals affected by skin injuries and swelling. A decoction prepared from the rhizome of the plant was earlier used in ruminant animals as protection from parasitic nematodes and Mammomonogamus species. It is said that the seeds of this herb were effectual against convulsions, sore throat, stomach ache and headache. It is also employed in the form of purgative and carminative. In all cases, the medicine is taken orally.
Aside from their medicinal use, the seeds of korarima also have culinary uses, especially in the form of a spice. These seeds have a mild, sweet essence, which is not as pungent or peppery compared to the seeds of grain of paradise (scientific name Aframomum melegueta). The seeds are generally used dried, but sometimes people even use the fresh seeds for culinary purpose. The seeds are dried and subsequently powdered for mixing the product with other spices. The mixture of these spices, including korarima seeds, is used to add essence to various types of sauces. Moreover, sometimes they are also utilized to add flavour to tea, coffee and even bread and butter. The succulent fruit covering the seeds is also consumed by people.
When used as a spice, the dried and powdered korarima seeds have a fiery flavour accompanied by a floral aroma. The spice’s aftertaste is somewhat hot, but smooth having a bitter tinge. These are the typical characteristics of this spice, which is widely used by the Eritreans and Ethiopians in their cuisines. In addition, this spice also forms an active ingredient of the Berbere spice mix, some types of breads and also a variety of stews.
Dried out korarima seeds are widely used in the local cuisine of Eritrea and Ethiopia. They also form an ingredient in awaze, mitmita, and a variety of spice mixtures. Last, but not the least, this spice is also added to coffee to spruce up its flavour.
Habitat and cultivation
Korarima (Aframomum corrorima) plant is native to the tropical as well as sub-tropical regions across the globe. This plant is found growing in places having an altitude of up to 2,000 meters. It has been found that korarima grows most excellently in places where the annual daytime temperatures vary between 16°C and 24°C. However, these plants possess the aptitude to endure temperature ranges between 7°C and 35°C. Plants of this species have a preference of an average rainfall ranging between 1,400 mm and 2,000 mm. Nevertheless, they are capable of tolerating annual rainfall between 1,200 mm and 3,000 mm.
Korarima plants also have a preference of little shade, but they also thrive in sunny positions. These plants do well when grown in humus-rich, fertile soils that may vary from light to medium. These plants have a preference for a pH ranging between 5.5 and 6.5. However, they are able to tolerate a pH range of 4.5 to 7.5. Korarima plants require a minimum of three years to be harvested for the first time. Each plant has an economic viability for about seven years from the date of first harvest. The fruits of this plant become mature and are ready for harvesting about two to three months after it come to bloom.
The seeds of korarima enclose an essential oil having a typical odour, which is sometimes described as nutmeg-cardamom. The distilled dried fruits contain about 3% to 3.5% of a light yellowish volatile oil. The essential oil encloses a number monoterpene compounds in various concentrations. The constituents of the volatile oil includes approximately 4% to 7% B-pinene, 32% to 35% 1,8-cineol, 7% to 14% limonene, 7% to 9% sabinene, 5% geraniol, 3% to 5% terpinen and 4% P-cymene. In addition, this volatile essential oil also contains A-terpinol and A-pinene. Yet another analysis identified sesquiterpenes, which was on average mostly dominated by monoterpenes (75%), which include terpinyl acetate and 1,8-cineol. It also comprises 17% sesquiterpenes, which include caryophyllene, nerolidol and caryophyllene oxide.