Also Known as
Elaichi, Green cardamom
Cardamom, often dubbed as the "grains of paradise" is a pungent, aromatic herb which is very versatile. It is also the second most important national spice of India (the first being black pepper), known as the "Queen of Spices. Cardamom is one of the world's very ancient spices. Cardamom grows as a perennial herb with thick, fleshy rhizomes or underground stems shooting leafy roots with leafy stems. It has very large leaves, white or pale green, many seeded pale green to yellow fruits and triangular brownish black seeds. They have a pleasant aroma with warm pungent taste. Green cardamom pods are harder to find and more expensive in part because of their superior ability to retain aroma and flavor longer.
Crushed cardamom Lightly crush the cardamom pods and extract small black seeds inside. . If the seeds slip out of the pods, crush them gently. Scoop up the pods and seeds and put them in a mortar and pestle. Discard pods, keep seeds. Crush it partially or finely using a mortar and pestle or grind it in a grinder.
How to Select
Cardamom is sold ground or whole. Whole seeds need to be cracked open to release the flavor and scent. The seed is light green, white, or brown. The skin of cardamom seeds is thin and feels like paper. Choose the greener ones as these have the best flavour.
" In Indian cooking cardamom forms one of the main ingredients of Garam Masala, a combination spice for many vegetarian and non vegetarian dishes. It is also an important ingredient in curry powder which is widely used in Indian cooking.
" Tea and coffee made with cardamom are pleasantly aromatic and refreshing. Try Cardamom the Arabic way and add a little to your ground coffee before brewing, then sweeten and top with cream.
" In India we also tend to associate cardamom with the paan (betel leaf).
" Whole green cardamom pods are as esteemed as the seeds they contain - many pulaos, curries and hot dishes call for cardamom to be added whole. It slowly infuses the dish with its essence and the shell disintegrates as it cools. Hence, is often used to provide aroma to biryanis, pulaos and kebabs.
" Indian desserts like Kheer, phirni etc as well as sweets like gulab jamun, gajar ka halwa etc use cardamom to lend a distinctive flavor. Western desserts like flans, rice pudding and porridge also use this spice.
How to Store
Cardamom is best stored in pod form, because once the seeds are exposed or ground, they quickly lose their flavor. However, high-quality ground cardamom is often more readily (and cheaply) available, and is an acceptable substitute. Cardamom needs to be stored in a cool, dry place and in an airtight container. If possible, buy the whole seeds and grind them yourself as needed. It will stay aromatic for a year in dry conditions.
" Stimulates digestive system and reduces gas.
" Expectorant action - Improves circulation to the lungs and thus considered good for asthma and bronchitis
" Can counteract excess acidity in the stomach
" Stimulates appetite and Cures halitosis (bad breath)
" An infusion made by boiling couple of pounded cardamoms in a cup of water along with few mint leaves, relieves you from Hiccups.