Cardamom spice is a highly aromatic spice that is most commonly used in Eastern, Arab, and some Scandinavian cuisines. Its unique slightly sweet and savory flavor allows it to be combined with both sweet and savory dishes. Cardamom seed’s ability to enhance so many types of food is why it is combined with a wide range of other ingredients. From seafood to sauces, to meats, poultry, vegetables, and even desserts, pastries, and other baked goods.
Numerous flavorful little cardamom seeds are encased within a single cardamom pod that are green in color when fresh. Cardamom spice has a complex flavor that can be described as slightly sweet, floral, and spicy with citric elements. It leaves the tongue with a warm antiseptic sensation similar to eucalyptus with an additional peppery after taste. Some have described its flavor as spicy and cola-like. Grind cardamom from one of the whole forms of the spice to insure a superior flavor and aroma, both of which are quickly lost when the spice is pre-ground.
Kinds of Cardamom Spice
Cardamom comes in several forms depending upon how the cardamom seed pods are treated:
Green cardamom pods are the preferred form of this spice in its native country, India. This fancier kind of cardamom has been picked while still immature and sun-dried to preserve its bright green color. Green cardamom pods are harder to find and more expensive in part because of their superior ability to retain aroma and flavor longer. This premium form of cardamom is all connoisseurs will use in any recipe which calls for cardamom.
Cardamom seed has had the outer pod, or cardamom fruit, removed so that only the pure seeds remain. This form of cardamom spice is sometimes called cardamom-decort, which simply means the seeds have been removed from the pods, or hulled. Generally the seeds are crushed or ground prior to use, which provides plenty of cardamom flavor at a more economical price, substitute 12 seeds for every whole pod called for in a recipe.
Black cardamom is the seed pods of closely related species that also are aromatic and have an appearance similar to that of true cardamom. But, black cardamom is not a suitable substitute in recipes that call for cardamom. Its flavor is much earthier with sweetness and a flowery accent that is different from that of true cardamom’s. It is an ingredient used in some African cooking and abroad to add a bacon like flavor to some vegetarian dishes.
Ground cardamom is convenient to have for baking and other applications where the spice needs to be ground. Freshness and thus flavor is of course compromised when cardamom is pre-ground because it loses flavor soon after grinding. To appreciate cardamom’s true flavor we suggest grinding it before use in a spice mill, electric coffee grinder, or mortar and pestle.
White cardamom can be found in the United States and Europe that has been bleached to achieve its color, or lack of it. It is often used in baking and some desserts because its color helps keep light colored batters, sauces, and confections speck free.
Cardamom has a sweet, spicy flavor with a pungent aroma and is often used in Indian cooking, especially curries, drinks, rice dishes and sweet desserts. Cardamom is less common in Western cooking, but is essential for some Scandinavian and Dutch dishes.
Cardamom is good for digestion. It can reduce flatulence and is also beneficial for heartburn. For some people, cardamom stimulates the appetite. It can help with stomach ulcers and nasal conditions by soothing the mucous membranes. Cardamom tea is a good way to consume the spice to counter indigestion.
Cardamom seeds can be chewed for a few minutes to counter halitosis. The pleasant aroma masks the odor of bad breath. You can also gargle an infusion of cardamom and cinnamon to soothe a sore throat and reduce the hoarseness associated with upper respiratory illnesses. A daily gargle of the mixture can act as a preventative for influenza.
When mixed with a tablespoon of banana leaf and amla (gooseberry) juice, cardamom seeds can provide relief from the burning feeling accompanying some cystitis or urinary tract infections. It is also a diuretic and can increase the output of urine, making it especially useful when a UTI causes scant urine production