Like many other herbs and spices, cardamom’s uses go beyond the kitchen. Medicinal uses of the spice in Asia are wide-ranging and include treatment of oral infections, digestive ailments, and general inﬂammation. Its global appeal and wide range of uses means that cardamom is in high demand. Not surprisingly, then, cardamom ranks as the third most expensive spice by weight (behind only saffron and vanilla).
When you think of warming spices, what typically comes to mind? Cinnamon or nutmeg? What about cardamom? Like cinnamon and nutmeg, cardamom’s unique, aromatic blend of spicy and sweet ﬂavors complements many diﬀerent foods. In fact, while the cardamom family of plants is native to India and the surrounding areas, the delicious spice has found a home in cooking around the globe — as experts in traditional diets this is a fact we love to discover. Case in point: one area that is wild about cardamom is Scandinavia, where bakers commonly use the spice in a variety of sweets.
Cardamom can typically be purchased in three forms – whole pods, whole seeds, or ground seeds. The whole pods, which can be found in Indian dishes such as biryani, protect the seeds and have the longest shelf life. The whole seeds can be used in preparations similar to the whole pods, or ground. Both the whole pods and seeds can be steeped into milk to make chai tea (along with other spices) or kulﬁ (an Indian frozen dessert). And ground cardamom – often the most accessible and aﬀordable form of the spice – can be stirred into cake or muﬃn batters, or added to coﬀee grounds before brewing. Both the black (interestingly, also known as white) and green varieties of cardamom are generally available for your home kitchen – with green being more common in south Asian recipes and black being more common in Scandinavian cooking.
A true team player, cardamom can be enjoyed in sweet and savory dishes and pairs well with several other ﬂavors, including ginger (to which cardamom is related), citrus, rose water, coconut, pumpkin/ squash, nuts, and other warming spices like cinnamon. So, next time you bake muﬃns, cook a curry, churn a pint of ice cream, or even just brew a pot of coﬀee, I hope you’ll consider a sprinkle of cardamom for a new and spicy taste!
Have you used cardamom in your cooking? Tell us how you have used cardamom to spice up your life!