Cardamom, or elettaria cardamomum, originated in southern India and is part of the ginger family. It’s one of the oldest spices known to date. Offering both a sweet and spicy flavor, often described as warm and pungent, with a hint of citrus, green cardamom provides big taste in a small package. Green cardamom remains the third most expensive spice by weight because harvesting is quite labor intensive. Because it grows in pod form, each pod needs to be opened to separate the seeds. The seeds are then ground to a fine powder rich in flavor.
Cardamom is highly valued throughout the world. Ancient Egyptians chewed on the aromatic cardamom pods as a way to freshen breath and keep teeth clean, while the Greeks and Romans used them for scented oils and perfume. Vikings came across cardamom early on and brought it back to scandinavia, where it is still popular today. Cardamom is often best known as a staple in Indian cuisine.
Green Cardamom Uses:
During ancient times, cardamom was used medicinally in a variety of ways. The Greek physician, Hippocrates, wrote about the digestive benefits of cardamom. It was thought that cardamom would improve stomach maladies ranging from colic to heartburn, as well as a treatment for headaches, asthma, bronchitis, and cardiovascular disease. Cardamom has antibacterial and anti-microbial properties, and modern-day research is uncovering further benefits of cardamom as well. In rat studies, it has been shown to prevent obesity, decrease cholesterol, and improve liver function. Further research is needed to determine long-term benefits in humans.
Green cardamom is used in both sweet and savory dishes and is versatile in use. In Indian cuisine, cardamom powder is often “bloomed” in hot oil either alone or with other spices to bring out the flavor and intensity of the spice prior to adding other ingredients. It is a common feature in curries and rice dishes. Cardamom is found in Dutch and Scandanavian style cookies, cakes, and pastries. It pairs well with poultry, fish, and pulses, as well as beverages such as tea and coffee.