Cardamom, known as the “Queen of Spices” in India, is a highly aromatic seed derived from plants belonging to the ginger family. Cardamom seeds are found in pods. The Green Cardamom pods are among the most popular. Black Cardamom pods are also quite popular, but are not considered to be “true” cardamom, and often rudely referred to as “bastard cardamom”, even though it actually possesses a stronger aroma and better flavor than Green Cardamom pods. Both green cardamom and black cardamom pods are used widely, but separately. But when we talk about cardamom spices, we usually refer to green cardamom pods.
Tastes and Aroma
Green cardamom spices have a warm and mellow taste to them, mildly astringent, lemony and flowery and very refreshing as you add them to your dishes. They give you the feel of a camphor or eucalyptus, and the taste can also be best described as warm, and bittersweet, and yet very clean and fresh. This unique taste makes cardamom ideal for both sweet and savory dishes.
Pair well with cinnamon, coriander seed, ginger. Also good with allspice, anise, chili, cumin, green cardamom, mustard, paprika, pepper, star anise, turmeric.
Complements best with chicken, esp. stews, coffee, curries, dates, desserts, lamb, orange juice or zest, rice and rice dishes, tea. Also work well with roast meat, butter chicken, Chinese master stocks, and Asian soups.
For cooking with cardamom spices, you may remove the cardamom seeds from the pod and then grind them, or, slightly bruise the pod and use it as a whole – so that its unique flavor is added to the dishes, and the pod is discarded soon after. The bruising of the green cardamom pods removes the cardamom oil and infuses the food with their amazing cardamom flavor. It is best to dry roast the cardamom seeds before being used in savory dishes, then split the pods and remove the seeds. Roast the seeds in a skillet and then grind them.
Cardamom is used in many spice mixes – you can create your own spice mix with cardamom in it. Coffee tastes special when cardamom is added to it, giving it a unique Arabian flavor.
Cardamom is used in cakes and pastries in Germany, Scandinavia and Russia and in the preparation of desserts in the Middle East. In Scandinavia, there is a demand for pickled dishes and baked dishes flavored with cardamom. In Germany, cardamom is used to prepare a special Christmas dish called the lebkuchen.
Indians use Cardamom pods in to give a special flavor to the biryani rice, curry and curd rice. Chicken tikka and butter chicken are among the popular Indian dishes that use cardamom. In India, Cardamom is also used in a special ice cream, called kulfi, in pudding, sweetmeats, pastries and in the famous Indian paan.
Buying and Storing
Green Cardamom pods are among the priciest spices after saffron and vanilla. Black cardamom are not quite as costly. Cardamom is available as whole cardamom pods, cardamom seeds without pods, as crushed or ground cardamom seeds. The cardamom that retains the pods have the best flavor and aroma.
For superior flavor and aroma, buy cardamom pods and then remove the cardamom seeds from the pods just before use. While looking for cardamom pods, it is important that they are no split on the ends – which would suggest that some of the cardamom oil is lost. The green cardamom pods should be very colorful, and look fresh – don’t buy them if they appear to be bleached.
Cardamom pods that are intact retain their freshness for a couple of years if stored in an airtight container and kept away from sunlight. Ground cardamom has a relatively short shelf life of six months. You could also crush whole cardamom seeds with a mortar and pestle, or grind them with the help of a spice grinder. Ground cardamom is available in most US grocery stores, and whole cardamon can be purchased at ethnic or health stores or online.
There are several Cardamom Health Benefits:
- Cardamom is found to sweeten breath, stop coughing, cure sore throats and ease stomach disorders. This is because of the presence of the very useful antioxidant, cineole, in cardamom.
- Cardamom is a recommended cure for indigestion, intestinal gas, irritable bowel syndrome and constipation.
- Cardamom relaxes the airways, which makes it useful to those suffering from asthma or sinus infection.
- Research shows that cardamom impedes the growth of cancerous cells that cause colon cancer.
- Cardamom is also a very good diuretic, and is used to lower high blood pressure.
- Cardamom decreases platelet aggregation in the blood and prevents formation of blood clots.
- Cardamom flavored gums are chewed those trying to quit smoking and suffering from nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
- Avoid excessive consumption which may lead to gallstones or allergic reaction.