Cardamom is the dried, unripened fruit of the perennial Elettaria cardamomum. Enclosed in the fruit pods are tiny brown aromatic seeds which are slightly pungent to taste. Cardamom pods are generally green but are also available in bleached white pod form. It is available both in the whole pod and as decorticated seeds with the outer hull removed.
Cardamom is used in Danish pastries, in Saudi Arabian, North African, Asian and Indian cooking and in spice blends such as garam masala, curry powder and berbere.
Whole cardamom pods come from India, while the decorticated seeds are imported from Guatemala. Two varieties are indigenous to India but are also cultivated in Guatemala and Sri Lanka. Indian cardamom is considered to be of premium quality. The Malabar type, rounded in shape, has a pleasantly mellow flavor generally regarded as superior. The Mysore type, ribbed and three-cornered, has a slightly harsher flavor but retains its green color longer.
Throughout the Arab world, cardamom is one of the most popular spices, with cardamom coffee being a symbol of hospitality and prestige. The spice is also very popular in Scandinavian countries, where it is used more extensively than cinnamon.
Cardamom is being used in a variety of unexpected ways, making it the flavor of the moment. In many recipes, cardamom plays a supporting role: people may not be able to pinpoint its flavor, but would certainly notice if it were absent. Cardamom is floral and perfume-like, with grapefruit notes. It is important to Middle Eastern, North African, Latin American and Indian cuisines and is also a key ingredient in curries. Chefs at fine restaurants are featuring the spice in savory dishes and Americans, who once thought of cardamom solely as a holiday baking ingredient, are taking notice. Consumption of cardamom has increased an incredible 657 percent over the past two decades.
What The Experts Say
"For a delicious dry rub for lamb, I combine cardamom with coriander and fennel," says Chef Cat Cora, host of Food Network's Kitchen Accomplished.
Perfect Flavor Partners Include:
allspice, black and red pepper, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, fennel, ginger, paprika, saffron, and turmeric
Bold green pods, hard brownish-black seeds
Flavor & Aroma
Aromatic and sweet
Cardamom has a grapefruit-like, floral, soapy flavor containing some green/woody notes. It has a menthol undertone and is similar to ginger.