Green cardamom. Photo courtesy Suvir
Saran | Indian Home Cooking.
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.
In India, both green and black cardamom are important ingredients in meat and vegetable dishes.
In Africa, black cardamom is a staple spice.
In the Middle East, green cardamom seeds are mixed with coffee beans for a tastier brew.
In Scandinavia, white cardamom is added to sausage and baked goods: breads and buns, cakes, cookies, muffins and stollen.
HOW TO STORE CARDAMOM
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:
Baking—everything from apple cake, brownies, cookies (cinnamon, chocolate chip, ginger, oatmeal, sugar) and cinnamon rolls to pound cake, shortbread and spice cake
Beverages: chai, coffee (add a pinch to the ground beans or add pods to a French press) mulled cider and wine, smoothies/lassi (especially mango)
Ice cream: start with chocolate and vanilla, then make lemon-cardamom
Ground meat: burgers, meatballs, meat loaf
Fruit: compote, fruit soup, poached fruit
Pudding: bread pudding, custard, panna cotta, rice pudding
Rice: pilaf or plain rice (simply toss pods into the cooking water)
Yogurt: coffee, plain, vanilla
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.
FEEL LIKE BAKING?
Make this cardamom cookie recipe from Martha Stewart.
Find more of our favorite spices in our Salts & Spices Section.