Cardamom spice is a member of the ginger family. This ancient spice is the third most expensive one in the world because, like Saffron and Vanilla Beans, it’s hand harvested and requires much manual labor. Cardamom spice has an intense spicy warm flavor that is sweet, at first.
Spice shops sell the green pods, seeds and ground versions. You may find white Cardamom pods and blackish-brown ones too. White pods/seeds are just the green ones lightened to lessen their appearance in lighter-colored dishes and baked goods. Usually you pay more for the white because of the extra processing step. There are up to twenty seeds in each pod. You can use the whole pod in recipes that have liquid, or are coarser in texture (e.g., coffees, curries, rubs, soups, stews, teas). Crush up the entire pod containing the seeds and add to mixtures. Cooking dissolves remnants of the pod’s shell.
Blackish-brown Cardamom pods look and taste different from the green and white ones. These hairy pods have a deep pungent, somewhat smoky and stinky at once, aroma. They’re used primarily in African and Indian cooking for stews and vegetarian dishes.
Cardamom spice is indigenous to India (Malabar coast), and now grown also in tropical areas including the islands of the Pacific, Central America (Guatemala, Mexico), and parts of Asia (Sri Lanka). Pods grow on six-feet-tall shrubs.
Today, all cuisines incorporate Cardamom; however, it is used primarily in Indian, Middle Eastern, North African, German, Russian, and Scandinavian (desserts and baked goods) cooking.
Cardamom spice is used worldwide in desserts like rice pudding and pastries, curries, masala chai, mulled wines, pilaf rice dishes, and vegetables. It is good, particularly, for these foods: breads, coffees, fruits, ham, mushrooms, peas, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, basmati rice, and spinach.
For savory dishes, dry roast the seeds before crushing and adding to the recipe. This brings out the best flavor. It is best to keep small quantities of Cardamom. Replace the ground spice within 6 months; whole seeds within 2 years; and, uncracked pods can be kept forever.
Cardamom seeds contain over twenty volatile oils including some that help to freshen bad breath, stimulate digestion and relieve flatulence. To help relieve indigestion, mix a handful of crushed seeds in a half cup of water with some ginger root. Bring to a simmer, then add a little warm milk and honey.
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