Cardamom is one of the oldest and most highly prized spices in history. This little seed possesses a strong, lingering flavor that is somehow perfectly suited to a variety of different cuisines. And although it is among the most expensive spices on the market, it has made a name as one of the most valuable, essential spices in the world today.
In this blog, we’ll discuss the history, origins, and common uses for cardamom, The Queen of Spices.
Cardamom comes from a perennial bush in the ginger family, Elettaria cardamomum. This bush measures 6-15 feet high when fully grown and bears fruit (pods) from September to December. These pods are harvested before they’re fully ripened and are placed in special drying rooms or left out in the sun to dry. The highest quality pods are hard and green when dried.
Whole pods are available in a couple different colors in international spice trade. Green pods have had their natural color preserved and are the gold standard. White pods, on the other hand, have been bleached with sulfur dioxide and are sometimes preferred for aesthetic purposes. Brown pods come from a different plant and aren’t considered “true cardamom”.
- Green Pods: Contain seeds which are dark brown or black and highly aromatic. They have a lighter, citrusy flavor.
- White Pods: Contain seeds which are light brown-to-black and have a sharp flavor with breath freshening qualities.
- Brown Pods: Are dark in appearance and have a distinctively strong and smokey flavor with an antiseptic-like quality.
Cardamom is deeply aromatic with a complex flavor that is best described as bitter, piney, fruity, and strong. Some describe it as a cross between cinnamon and cloves.
This spice is naturally warming and pairs well with a wide variety of both sweet and savory dishes.
Cardamom is an ancient, celebrated spice. Throughout history, it has reigned supreme as one of the most valuable spices in the world; second only to saffron and vanilla. In ancient times, this spice was primarily used as an ingredient in perfumes in Greece and Rome. During that time it was also hailed for its believed medicinal uses, and was used to aid digestion, alleviate nausea, and freshen breath.
This exceptional spice is still held in high regard around the world today.
Here are a few additional fun facts:
- In bedouin culture, it is tradition to proudly display the whole spice before preparing cardamom coffee.
- In India, it’s known as The Queen of Spices; reigning alongside The King of Spices, black pepper.
- There are many cheaper substitutes on the market today, including Nepal cardamom, and Chinese cardamom
Native to the mountainous forests of Southwest India and Sri Lanka, cardamom still grows wild there. Cultivation of the plant has expanded into Guatemala, Tanzania, and Vietnam. Still, the green pods grown in Southwest India sets the quality standard for all cardamom products.
At Pacific Spice, we are dedicated to sourcing the highest quality spices and herbs. Our PSC cardamom products are sourced from reputable, approved sources in Guatemala to ensure a flavorful and dependable addition to your favorite dishes.
Cardamom products are best when they’re tightly sealed and stored in a cool, dark, dry place; above ground and away from the wall. Under proper storage conditions, this spice should retain its quality and flavor for up to one year or more.
A very versatile spice, cardamom can be used in both sweet and savory dishes to enhance their flavors. In India, it’s a prominent spice in garam masala and other curry powders. In Middle Eastern countries, it’s used to flavor coffee. Scandinavians are among the largest importers of the spice; using it to flavor baked goods like cakes and breads.
In addition to these common uses around the world, cardamom is delicious in pastries, meats, tea blends, lentils, and even puddings. It is also worth mentioning that many of its ancient applications still exist today; it is still a popular plant in alternative medicine, and its essential oil is still used in perfumes.
At PSC we carry:
- PSC Cardamom Green X-Fancy
- PSC Cardamom Seed Decorticated
- PSC Cardamom Seed Ground
Contact us for any and all of your cardamom needs!