A Little About This Fragrant Spice
The spice cardamom, or cardamon, comes from the dried pods of the perennial herb Elettaria cardamomum, which grows in South Asia and southern Arabia. Cardamom’s distinctive flavour comes from its fragrance and from chemicals called terpenes and eugenol, which give it antiseptic properties. The spice has been used in traditional medicine, especially in ancient Egypt, where it was held to be an aphrodisiac.
a flowering plant in the ginger family with aromatic seeds used as a spice. cardamon or cardamum, an eastern spice obtained from either of two plants, Elettaria cardamomum (cardamom) and Amomum costatum (false cardamon). It has a hot, pungent taste like that of black pepper but is stronger. The whole berries are extensively used as a seasoning for curries and other dishes in India.
Cardamom can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes, but it’s not just for flavouring food. In India, cardamom seeds are commonly chewed after meals to aid digestion. (Source: Cardamom, Spice Sage.) The seeds have an exotic and slightly smoky flavour that complements both sweet and savoury dishes well. If you’re trying to replicate one of your favourite Indian dishes at home, consider adding a little ground cardamom; it may sound simple but many Indian recipes call for up to a dozen different spices, each playing a role in enhancing flavour and providing depth of flavour.
How to Use Cardamom
Keep in mind that you can buy cardamom as a whole pod or already ground. When buying cardamom, choose pods with a strong scent; black cardamom pods are usually larger than green ones. Some recipes call for peeling and crushing whole pods, while others simply call for adding them to recipes whole. Once ground, store unused portions in an airtight container away from heat and light. Ground spices will stay fresh for up to one year if stored properly. If using a pre-ground powder, buy small amounts to keep your spice cabinet stocked.
The same rule applies to seeds; you can find both black and green seeds in any given grocery store, so make sure you check out each variety before picking out your favourites. Also, try infusing your cardamom by simmering it for about five minutes in some milk. Then remove it from heat and let steep for about 15 minutes (or until it reaches room temperature). Use a fine-mesh strainer to strain out all of the seeds. Use as part of sweet dishes such as puddings or add to orange marmalade glaze over baked ham or lamb chops. Any way you decide to use it, there’s no wrong way—just taste what suits your personal preferences best!
Where does it come from?
Native to southwest India, cardamom plants produce dark brown pods that contain light brown seeds. The entire pod is used in cooking, and although it’s most commonly associated with Indian cuisine, it’s also popular throughout Asia and Europe. Ground cardamom is especially common in Scandinavian baked goods like buns and coffee cakes. In its ground form, it’s known as cardamon (sometimes spelled cardamom). Like many other spices, whole pods can be steeped or infused in water to make a tea; green tea flavoured with cardamom has become very popular in recent years as a health drink for adults and children alike.
According to Ayurvedic medicine, cardamom can help calm your nerves and soothe nausea. It has also been used in aromatherapy to relieve tension and improve breathing. And, because it’s antibacterial, it can help you fight infections. Lastly, cardamom helps lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels by reducing insulin resistance. Finally, if you suffer from digestive problems like gas or bloating, adding more foods with fibre-like cardamom into your diet could be just what you need. As well as being low-calorie and high in fibber, foods rich in fibber are often high in other nutrients that can have positive effects on various aspects of health.
Facts And Uses
Cardamom is one of those spices that people tend to like or dislike. Those who love it claim it has a warm, spicy aroma and can be used to add extra flavour to a variety of dishes; detractors may find that same fragrance overpowering and too intense. However, you feel about cardamom, you’ll want to be careful how much you use: The spice comes from an evergreen bush that grows 4-5 meters (12-15 feet) tall and can grow up to 12 meters (40 feet) in ideal conditions.
The long pods produce anywhere from 10-30 seeds each, which are dried to make ground cardamom or whole pods for cooking. This means that while just 1 tsp. of cardamom yields only 6 calories, any dish with more than 1 tsp. could easily rack up 100+ calories—and far more if you’re using actual pods instead of ground cardamom!
It’s also worth noting that true cardamon is made from grinding green unripe fruit together with seeds. The resulting powder does not have health benefits similar to black pepper and cinnamon because it contains very little essential oil as most of its content is starch granules.
Cooking With Cardamom
Cardamom can be used in either sweet or savoury dishes and lends a warm, spicy flavour to everything from curries to oatmeal. The spice’s versatility means it can be used anywhere cinnamon would typically be used. To help you get started using cardamom, here are 10 ways to incorporate cardamom into your cooking. You’ll learn how to use cardamom in sweet recipes like chai lattes and cookies, as well as savoury dishes such as chicken tikka masala and baked fish with almonds.