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Also Known as
Elaichi, Green cardamom
Next to black pepper, cardamom is the most common spice in India. It is also one of the world’s most ancient spices, often glorified as the Queen of Spices, the Grain of Paradise, and so on. It is used widely in India for culinary and medical purposes.
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. It has a pleasant aroma with a warm pungent taste. Green cardamom pods are harder to find and more expensive in part because of their superior ability to retain aroma and flavour for longer.
Lightly crush the cardamom pods and extract the small black seeds inside. Discard the pods. Put the seeds in a mortar pestle, and crush coarsely or finely as required by the recipe. When making slightly larger quantities of crushed cardamom in a spice grinder or mixer, some people like to crush it with the pods in order to ensure a better grind and to prevent the powder from caking.
How to Select
• Cardamom is sold ground or whole. It is always better to buy whole cardamoms, and grind them as and when required, to retain the flavour for longer. Ground cardamom tends to lose its flavour quickly.
• If buying seeds, choose from light green, white or brown varieties.
• When buying whole, choose those with a greener pod for greater flavour.
• Cardamom is one of the main ingredients in Garam Masala, a spice mix used commonly in subzis, rice preparations, snacks, etc., in India.
• Tea and coffee made with cardamom are pleasantly aromatic and refreshing.
• Try cardamom the Arabic way. Add a little to your ground coffee before brewing, then sweeten and top with cream.
• Cardamom is also used in making paan, a digestive prepared using betel leaves.
• Many pulaos, curries and hot dishes call for cardamom to be added whole, with the pod. 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 and gajar ka halwa use cardamom to lend a distinctive flavour.
• Western desserts like flans, rice pudding and porridge also use this spice.
How to Store
• Cardamom is best stored with the pod, because once the seeds are exposed or ground, they quickly lose their flavour.
• While you could buy high quality cardamom powder from trusted dealers, it is always better to grind cardamoms as and when required.
• Cardamom needs to be stored in a cool, dry place and in an airtight container.
• It will stay aromatic for a year in dry conditions.
• It stimulates the digestive system and reduces gas.
• Its 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 a couple of pounded cardamoms in a cup of water along with few mint leaves, relieves you from hiccups.
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