This is the first post in a new monthly series here on FBC called The Spice Box. Primarily written by Michelle Peters Jones, these posts will create a spice primer for new and experienced home cooks alike! Have a spice you'd like to see profiled? Let us know in the comments.
Latin Name: Green Cardamom - Elettaria Cardamomum, Black Cardamom - Amomum Villosum
Hindi: Elaichi (e-lahi-chee) (Chhoti (small) for Green and Badi (large) or Moti (fat) for Black)
Cardamom is grown in the tropical areas around the Indian Ocean, with Kerala and Karnataka in India producing the hardiest varieties. Sri Lanka has also been growing cardamom, and it's becoming a popular spice that is exported all over the world. That said, its Guatemala that currently produces most of the cardamom used all over the world with India and Sri Lanka coming a close second.
Cardamom comes in two varieties, green and black. The little green pods are smaller, while the black pods are larger and pack a stronger, even harsher, punch of flavour. Green and black cardamom vary wildly in their flavours. Green cardamom is mild with sweet/ spicy notes and a light, almost eucalyptus-like floral bouquet. Black, on the other hand is has a strong (almost verging on the harsh) and a very unsubtle, but highly distinctive, smoky flavour.
How to use cardamom:
Cardamom is a spice that is used in both sweet and savoury cooking, and adds flavour that enhances the fragrance and taste of the dish.
Green cardamom can be used in three ways
- Lightly crushed with the pod
- Seeds only.
Cardamom powder, or ground cardamom can be quite expensive, so it's worth buying whole green pods and crushing the seeds in small quantities to make your own.
Green cardamom, along with cloves and cassia bark, is an essential part of 'whole spice garam masala' and is used to infuse flavour into Indian dishes. I like leaving whole spices in my dishes, as I don't mind the extra flavour they impart, but if you are fussy about whole spices, you can always tie them up in a small muslin bag, similar to a bouquet garni, and then remove the bag just before serving.
Black cardamom is rarely used as a whole spice in Indian food, the only notable difference being in authentic Kashmiri style Rogan Josh (for an authentic recipe, check out Thoughts from Ajoy). The seeds are used in a classic garam masala, and they're what imparts the slightly smoky flavour to the spice mix. Black cardamom can be quite overpowering, but used carefully and in small quantities adds warm flavour to dishes.
Green cardamom is also a staple in Middle Eastern, Thai Massaman and Mediterranean cuisines, as well as in Finnish and some Scandinavian countries. My recent favourite has been cardamom flavoured coffee, and of course, it's a staple in chai. Almost all Indian desserts use cardamom, with my personal favourite being Gulab Jamun.
And finally... did you know that cardamom is the world's third most valuable spice, only superseded by saffron and vanilla?