The Multi Purposes of Cardamom

April 12, 2016 | By

Sometimes referred to as the queen of spices, cardamom is a member of the ginger (zingiberaceae) family. It is native to India and Southeast Asia and two types exist, green cardamom (Elettaria Cardamomum) also known as true cardamom, and black cardamom (Aromum Subulatum). Green cardamom is more common than the black variety and yet it is one of the world’s most expensive spices, just falling short of saffron and vanilla.

The plants are perennial herbs that grow to approximately 4 meters. The fruit is a pod containing between 8 – 16 seeds. The pods develop approximately 2 years following plantation, and they measure between 1-2 centimeters in length.

Green cardamom grows wild in southern India where it continues to be harvested in the same way as always, hand-picked and separated. It is cultivated in many other countries including Mexico, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. In Guatemala cardamom export has even overtaken coffee, and is now the country’s main crop.

As with most spices, throughout the ages cardamom has served many purposes. The Greeks and Romans added it to other ingredients in order to make perfume. Due to its multi-positive properties, cardamom continues to be a popular spice around the globe.

Dietary Uses

Cardamom is extensively included in Indian cooking, and the entire pod can be used whole or ground.  The pods of black cardamom are slightly larger than the green variety and are mostly added to savory dishes, in particular rice recipes such as biryani. 

Within the Middle East, green cardamom is often used in coffee. The cardamom pods are ground with the coffee beans and then boiled in water, or they are placed inside the spout of the coffee pot to add flavor as the drink is poured. It is the cardamom within the Arabian coffee, known as gahwa, which accords exquisite taste.

The Vikings delivered cardamom to Scandinavia after they discovered it in Turkey a little more than a thousand years ago. The spice remains popular in Scandinavia today and is used in many mulled wine recipes, including the traditional Glogg.

Medicinal Uses

Cardamom has long been used in traditional medicines and is thought to aid digestion, counteract the adverse effects of certain types of venom, and to maintain oral hygiene. In fact, the Ancient Egyptians chewed cardamom to clean the teeth. Black cardamom is widely used within Ayurvedic medicine and in the Ayurvedic texts it is referred to as ‘ela.’

Today cardamom is used in the relief of heartburn, to relieve the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and to treat liver and gall bladder disorders. It can also alleviate symptoms of the common cold, coughs, and even ease the symptoms of bronchitis.

Category: Food

Comments are closed.