Carda what? Cardamom! The spice with the weird name
Let’s discover more about the spice that literally goes along with everything. Still little used in Europe, cardamom turns out to be versatile and full of personality
Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum L. – Maton) is a perennial herbaceous plant of the Zingiberaceae family and it’s related to the more famous ginger. It grows in tropical areas and the largest producers are India, Guatemala and Sri Lanka. On view it looks like a set of stems arranged in a bushy bunch; a plant of cardamom can reach up to 4-6 meters in height.
Originally cardamom grew spontaneously but from the nineteenth century it began to be cultivated for its fruits, small green pods containing precious and aromatic seeds. The fruits are harvested while they are still green, then they are dried and sold as whole to preserve the aroma in the seeds.
There are three types of cardamom: Malabar has a flavor similar to eucalyptus; Mysore, with a warmer and spicier personality and citrus and floral notes; then Vazhucca, a natural hybrid between Malabar and Mysore and an intermediate sensory profile.
On the other hand there is the so-called black cardamom: this belongs to another species, it is generally cheaper and has a prominent smoky flavor. Mistrust powdered cardamom…it is not so fragrant!
What are the properties and benefits of cardamom?
Used in traditional Ayurvedic, Chinese, Tibetan, Arabic, Greek and Roman medicine for various purposes, cardamom reduces stress with its high levels of linalool and linalyl acetate, aromatic compounds we can also find in lavender, citrus and in other flowers and spices.
This spice is traditionally used in the treatment of asthma, digestive disorders and cold symptoms, as widely demonstrated in pharmacological studies. Its essential oil turns out to be an effective diuretic and detoxifier and for this reason it was chosen by Wilden.herbals for our Remedium n. 4 – Hangover.
How to use cardamom?
The fruit we buy (dried in plantation) looks like a green-brownish capsule.
It is possible to use it in different ways, depending on how much intensity you need. For instance: a whole capsule (slightly flattened or with side cuts not to disperse the seeds) will give you a delicate aroma.
Alternatively if you try to open the capsule, you can use the seeds to season the water or the oil you’ll need for your cooking preparations; eventually it is also possible to crush the capsule and the seeds with a mortar and add them to the recipe. Just be careful not to overdo with them!
After saffron and vanilla, Cardamom is the third most expensive spice in the world.
The Arab tradition mixes cardamom with coffee and uses it to reduce the effects of caffeine. The resulting drink, Qahwa, is often consumed to fight headaches and stress.
According to “The Thousand and One Nights” collection of folk stories cardamom had the power to get in good with the desired person. How? With a magical sauce or a delicacy made with cardamom seeds.
Although Europeans do not use this spice for traditional recipes, there are some exceptions: in Swedish Kardemummabullar, a super soft spiced croissant, or Belgian Trappist beers.
- Ashokkumar, Kaliyaperumal, et al. “Botany, traditional uses, phytochemistry and biological activities of cardamom [Elettaria cardamomum (L.) Maton]–A critical review.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 246 (2020): 112244.
- Stewart, Amy. The Drunken Botanist : The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks. Chapel Hill, N.C. :Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2013.