Green cardamom. Photo courtesy Suvir
Cardamom, a member of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae), is a highly aromatic and flavorful spice from from a plant native to India and its northern neighbors, Bhutan and Nepal. The name derives from the Latin cardamomum and the Greek kardamon, which referred to a particular Indian spice plant.
The shell of the pod has very little flavor. The small seeds inside are intense in both aroma and taste. You can buy cardamom whole (pods), shelled or ground, in black, green and white varieties.
If a recipe simply calls for “cardamom,” use the green variety, which has exotic floral notes. Black cardamom (actually brown in color) is stronger, smokey and resinous. White cardamom, preferred in Scandinavia, is green cardamom that has been sun-bleached for aesthetics; there is no difference in flavor.
Cardamom, often seen as an exotic spice in the U.S., is popular in numerous cuisines worldwide.
Store cardamom pods in a tightly sealed glass jar, away from heat and light. They can keep indefinitely.
WAYS TO USE CARDAMOM
If you have cardamom sitting in the cupboard, it’s time to break it out. The spice fits into any recipe that calls for allspice, cinnamon, cumin, ginger, mace, nutmeg, preserved lemon or rose. Start by adding a pinch, then more to suit your taste. Beyond curries and other international dishes, use cardamom in:
Cardamom is the world’s third most expensive spice by weight, following saffron and vanilla. But in most cases, just a pinch is needed.
As with many spices, cardamom also has health benefits, which range from improving digestion to increasing one’s metabolism.
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