Spice Tracks: Organic Cardamom
Posted by Dinesh Perera on November 21, 2014 (1 Comment)
We’re tracking cardamom (elettaria cardamomum), an essential ingredient in South-East Asian cooking. There are essentially two types of cardamom: green cardamom and black cardamom. In the Middle East it flavors coffee, tea and desserts, while Scandinavian countries have incorporated this peppery yet distinguishably aromatic spice into baking and use it to flavor the Norwegian Christmas bread called Julekake.
The distinguishable character of cardamom, aptly described as peppery yet floral, has been best described to me as “the most romantic spice in the world” by my friend Victoria Shanta Retelnly.
The image above is of a mature cardamom plant. The pods grow from panilces, which are shoots that sprout below the main stem.
Abundantly used in numerous spice blends such as Sri Lankan Curry Powder and various Garam Masalas, cardamom is of the ginger family and grown in India, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka. But the biggest producer is the South American country of Guatemala.
A single pod of cardamom encases roughly 15 seeds which contain highly volatile oils that oxygenate very quickly, dissipating aroma and flavor once the pod is cracked open and the seeds are exposed to air. So, purchasing cardamom seeds or, even worse, powder is really doing yourself and the recipe you’re using a great disservice. Always purchase cardamom pods. Granted, removing the seeds from the pods is an arduous task, but this can simplified by using the whole pod. When a recipe such as Aromatic Yellow Rice or Chai calls for cardamom, simply crush the pods using the flat side of a knife (Please do not use a wooden spatula as the wood will split along the grain!) and toss them into the rice. When a recipe calls for teaspoon of cardamom seeds, one can assume that about 20 or so pods contain enough seeds to meet that measure. I tend to add a few more, simply because it couldn’t hurt!
In the instance of powdered spice blends, simply grind the whole pods. Although the husk or outer covering of the cardamom does not have any flavor, it will not interfere with the overall flavor of the blend.
One very easy way to experience this wonderfully flavorful spice is to take a couple of pods, crush as previously described and put them into your morning coffee. You will find it delightful!