Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum)
Cardamom is an essential ingredient in Indian spice mixes and can be used in either sweet or savory dishes. Cardamom is a member of the ginger family and the world’s third-most expensive spice, after saffron and vanilla.
Cardamom seeds have a warm, clean, sweet, lemon-like flavor with notes of eucalyptus and camphor. The seeds quickly lose their flavor once ground, so it’s best to grind dried cardamom seeds when required.
Cardamom has a bold, fruity, refreshing aroma.
In addition to Indian, cardamom is also used in Lebanese, Syrian, Scandinavian and Russian cuisines. It’s an essential ingredient in dal, masala, pilaf, and baking such as spiced cakes, baked apples and bread. Cardamom loves apples, oranges, pears, sweet potatoes, coffee, yogurt, chicken and duck and pairs perfectly with caraway, chili, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, ginger and paprika.
Cardamom plants grow in warm climates with moderate to high rainfall such as Southern India , Sri Lanka and Guatemala (which is the largest producer of cardamom in the world). Propagation is from fresh seeds or rhizomes and the plants can take up to 3 years before they flower and grow pods. Pick pods before they turn yellow and then allow to dry.
Cardamom was used by many ancient societies. Egyptians and Indians chewed cardamom seeds to sweeten their breath. Greeks and Romans used it in perfumes and it was a symbol of hospitality in Arabia. Native to the Western Ghats (also known as the Cardamom Hills) in southern India, cardamom was introduced to Europe though caravan routes and the Vikings introduced it into Scandinavia.
Cardamom is known for its cooling properties, traditionally used to cool the body and refreshing the breath. It is also known to aid digestion and assist with stomach aches. Nowadays cardamom is used in many prescription drugs and cough syrups to make the taste more palatable and some soaps and shampoos to clear up dandruff and acne.
Facts about Cardamom
Cardamom is one of the primary spices used to make masala chai, an Indian spiced tea.
Whereas green cardamom is a cooling spice, black cardamom is a heating spice and has a distinct and separate role in Indian cooking.
How do I increase the flavor of cardamom?
Ground cardamom loses flavor quickly so for maximum flavor bruise seeds with a pestle and mortar to open them, then dry-fry over a gentle heat to heighten the flavor.