Cardamom is a dried, unripened fruit pod with tiny, brown, aromatic seeds. A much coveted spice, it is native to the Middle East, North Africa, and Scandinavia. After saffron, cardamom is the most expensive spice, followed by vanilla.
Cardamom is one of the most popular spices in the Arab world, with Cardamom coffee being a symbol of hospitality and prestige. The spice is also very popular in the Scandinavian countries where it is used more extensively than cinnamon.
Also referred to as the Queen of all spices, cardamom has a history as old as human race. It has been mentioned by Theophrastus in the fourth century BC and by Dioscoredes in the first century AD. By 1000 AD it was actively being traded out of India.
Why should I be aware of this?
- Cardamom is part of many different world cuisines. It is used in curry powder, rice, meat, and dessert dishes. It matches well with chicken, coffee, curries, duck, lentils, meat, oranges, peas, rice and squash.
- It is available through the year.
- It is best to purchase it as pods and deseed them just before use to get maximum aroma. Cardamoms purchased in seed form lose some of the aroma. Ground cardamom is less aromatic than seeds or pods.
- Grinding the pod yourself will result in a fresher, stronger representation of the spice.
- You can also crush the seeds in a small mortar and pestle just before use.
- Cardamom is good for digestion and blood circulation.
- Cardamom is a key ingredient in garam masala and is often used in the traditional Indian meal
All about cardamom
Cardamom is a member of the ginger family. Some describe the taste as The tasted is described as similar to ginger but with a pinch of pine or having an anise flavor. It has a faint lemon taste with eucalyptus overtones. The cardamom pods are generally green but are also available in bleached white pod form. It is available both in the whole pod and as decorticated seeds with the outer hull removed.
There are three types of cardamom;
- Green cardamom
- Black cardamom
- Madagascar cardamom.
- It is best to buy cardamom still in the pods, which can be removed and discarded just before using.
- If you purchase decorticated seeds with the outer hull removed, the seeds lose much of their flavor.
- Ground cardamom has even less flavor than the fresher ones.
- Most recipes usually call for green cardamom.
- For cardamom a little goes a long way. If a recipe calls for 10 pods that would equal 1 ½ tsp ground.
- Ground cardamom is readily available and found in grocery stores.
The seeds contain a volatile oil.
Cardamom and health
According to Ayurveda, cardamom is effective in improving digestion. It helps those suffering from stomach cramps. It is a good stimulant and beneficial for those suffering from flatulence and gas.
Cardamom also helps in cleansing the body as it has detoxifying properties. It improves blood circulation to the lungs and can be helpful in prevention of spasms or convulsions. Hence, cardamom in small quantities is beneficial for those suffering from asthma or bronchitis.
Cardamom and environment
Cardamom cultivation requires clearing of native trees. It results in a net loss of stems through weeding and opening of the canopy to promote cardamom production. Effects of Cardamom cultivation on soil nutrient concentrations may occur directly, as a consequence of fertilizer addition, or indirectly as a result of changes in nutrient cycling that accompany changes in tree density and canopy opening.
- Cardamom is one of the oldest spices in the world.
- It was the most popular spice in ancient Rome.
- It is the world's second most expensive spice, saffron being the most expensive.
- Cleopatra is said to have found the scent so enticing that she had the palace scented with cardamom smoke when Marc Anthony came to visit.
- Ancient Greeks and Romans used cardamom in foods as well as for Medicines and perfumes.
- In the New Testament which was largely written in Greek “amooman” appears in reference to the aromatic plant cardamom. The word means blameless without reproach.
- In the Canterbury Tales, cardamom is "the spice of paradise."
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