This is a continuation of my Spice Series. Welcome to my information on Cardamom!
**Cardamom is a shrub and a member of the ginger family (just like Turmeric). It produces pods that are harvested just before they would open if they were left on the bush. These pods are bright green and they look a bit like olives when they are fresh.
**When you open the pods, you will find dozens of black seeds, which are held together in clusters with a sticky residue. These seeds and the resin that coats them provide an interesting and unique taste sensation. Cardamom has been described as tasting like a mixture of cloves, pepper, sassafras, and allspice. It has also been described as tasting like a mixture of ginger, vanilla, and citron. How would you describe the taste of cardamom?
**Cardamom is called the “Queen of Spices” in India (Black pepper is called the “King of Spices”, in case you were curious). Just like we learned with Saffron, however, there are plenty of false cardamoms out there. These include: Chinese brown cardamom, Thai green cardamom, Nepal cardamom, and Java cardamom. This article is ONLY about true cardamom (the one that simply goes by the name…cardamom). If anyone is curious about the others, please let me know and I will decide whether to write about them.
This article includes information on the medicinal benefits, culinary uses, and even how to grow your own cardamom. I hope you like this material, and, as always, if you have any questions/comments/additional sources for me, please post in the comment section below! Enjoy!
**In traditional Eastern medicine, cardamom is used to treat a great variety of health problems, including heart disease, respiratory problems (asthma, bronchitis, etc.), and digestive issues ranging from bad breath to constipation and diarrhea.
**After centuries of use in traditional medicine, 21st century scientists finally started doing research on the health benefits of cardamom. In the last 20 years, dozens of studies have shown that the volatile oils in cardamom have powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic agents that can work together to improve digestion as well as aid in other health problems.
**Cardamom has now been noted to help prevent/treat the following: Asthma, Bad breath, Blood clots, Colic, Colon cancer, Constipation, Diarrhea, Heart disease, High blood pressure, Indigestion, Sinusitis, Stomach aches, and Ulcers.
**It has also been said that cardamom is an aphrodisiac. I am curious, however, if that might just be because it helps get rid of bad breath… 🙂
**Here are some recipe ideas for actively using cardamom for medicinal benefits:
- Simmer Cardamom powder (like this one) in water and add sugar when cooled. This decoction helps regain lost appetite and improves digestion.
- Mix half a gram of Cardamom powder with an equal amount of dry Ginger and a little honey. It helps in relieving coughs and also alleviates tracheal and bronchial congestion.
- Chewing Cardamom seeds (like this one) act as an instant mouth freshener.
- Gargle a mixture of crushed Cardamom and Cinnamon or dry Mint leaves to treat sore throats, mouth ulcers and inflammation.
**Many cultures use cardamom as a mouth-freshener after meals. For example, the bowls of dried herbs/seeds you are often offered when you are about to leave an Indian restaurant contains cardamom seeds.
**Cardamom is a staple spice for Indian food. They use it often in their rice, quinoa, and lentil recipes as well as their curries.
**Although cardamom is popular for cooking, 80% of the world’s cardamom is actually used in Arab-speaking nations to make coffee. It is a custom in Arab homes to serve cardamom-flavored coffee to guests as a sign of hospitality. You simply put a cardamom pod into the coffee grounds before you brew it. You can also put the pod in the coffeepot spout and pour. Cardamom is also the secret flavor that makes Turkish coffee so delicious and famous.
**It is not difficult to find ground cardamom or even cardamom seeds in your typical grocery store, however, cardamom pods will only be found in specialty stores or bought online (like this one). Both pods and seeds are used in cooking. Pods should be bright green and NOT pale or bleached (the English prefer bleached pods, but this lessens the spice’s taste and oils).
**If you cannot find cardamom pods, buy the seeds instead of ground cardamom. Just like with most other spices, the aromas/tastes/oils lessen quickly once cardamom is ground. If you buy the seeds and grind them as needed, you help maintain the true flavors of cardamom.
**Cardamom pods will keep for two years in an airtight container away from sunlight. Seeds will keep for up to a year. Ground cardamom will keep for a maximum of six months.
**Pods are usually used in savory dishes with a liquid base. Many ethnic recipes call for bruised cardamom pods. To bruise a pod, simply use a rolling pin over the pod or use the flat end of a butcher’s knife and gently push. Bruising releases the oils and allows the flavors to meld with the other ingredients. Make sure you discard the pods at the end of cooking (no one wants to bite down on a pod while eating!).
**Ground cardamom is often used in sweeter dishes. Use it sparingly so that it does not overwhelm the other flavors.
**Here are some ways to get more cardamom in your diet:
- Spice your morning coffee in a similar way as Arab-speaking nations. If you do not want to go to the trouble of putting a bruised pod in the neck of a formal coffee pot, drop a crushed pod or two in the brewed pot from your coffeemaker and strain the coffee into your mug or cup. It should be one pod per two cups of coffee.
- Put one or two bruised cardamom pods in the liquid when making rice, or add a pinch of ground cardamom to rice pilaf.
- Sprinkle ground cardamom and a little sugar on grapefruit.
- Add some ground cardamom to gingerbread, chocolate cake, or vanilla cake recipes.
**Do you use cardamom? If so, I would love some recipes! Please post them in the comment section if you want to share!
Try this delightful Turkish Cardamom Coffee recipe from beautyandthefoodie!
How to Grow:
**Cardamom is native to the monsoon forests of India and Sri Lanka. It is a perennial and a member of the ginger family. Like ginger, cardamom has a rhizome/bulb.
**Cardamom’s leaves smell like the spice. They get white flowers in the spring which become the green seed pods in the fall.
**Cardamom can be grown as an outdoor perennial only in Zones 10 and 11. Otherwise, it will need to be grown indoors or in a greenhouse. You can also grow it in a large, deep container and bring it indoors whenever the temperature goes below 35 degrees.
**Cardamom can reach 10 feet tall by the third year. It can grow even taller and may need to be pruned to maintain the desirable height.
**Cardamom prefers a rich soil and filtered shade. It will suffer if given direct sunlight.
**If you put cardamom in a large pot, it might become pot-bound and refuse to flower. You must keep dividing the plant (and maybe give the divisions as gifts to friends) to keep it from becoming pot-bound. If it still does not flower, the leaves are also fragrant, so at least the plant will still help make your home smell fantastic. You can also add the fragrant leaves to your herbal teas.
**They may be raised from seed, but you need a lot of patience because it takes 2-3 months for those seeds to germinate.
**Cardamom is more likely to be propagated from rhizomes or bulbs from 1-2 year old plants with at least 2 growing stems.
**You can also get mature plants from division transplants.
**Cardamom prefers a rich, loamy soil that is slightly acidic with a pH of 6.1-6.6.
**From winter through midsummer, feed your plant biweekly with fish emulsion. You can also feed your plant phosphorus and potassium as needed.
**Cardamom requires a steady supply of moisture due to its’ tropical origins. It will not tolerate drought. Misting the plant and soil on a daily basis will help it thrive wonderfully.
**Some of the websites I read mentioned that they often abused their cardamom plants such as forgetting to keep them damp, but that their cardamom continued to live. They seem to be quite hardy in this way, though I would still recommend giving them their few needs (correct temperatures and humid/moist conditions) in order to help the plant thrive.
**Cardamom takes approximately 3 years of growth before producing seed pods.
**In their third year, the plants start flowering, usually in April or May, and will continue to flower until July or August. The flowers produce a fruit, which is the green cardamom pods. Each pod contains a few dozen seeds. The pods are ready to harvest about 30-40 days after flowering. You must gather them just before they are completely ripened. Otherwise, they split open and release their seeds.
**You will need to dry the pods either with a dehydrator or out in the sun. The sun might lighten their color. Then you can either store them in the pods or collect the seeds within the pods.
There you go! This is all of the information that I could find out about cardamom. Please click here for my introduction to my Spice Series. Again, if you have any comments, questions, or extra information for me, please feel free to post in the comment section below!