If black pepper, with its robust and dominating flavor, is known as the “King of Spices”, it is fitting that fragrant, floral, almost delicate cardamom is known as the “Queen of Spices”. Harvested by hand from a perennial bush of the ginger family, the process actually takes place over several months, as pods ripen at different times. For this reason, cardamom is the third most expensive spice in the world, behind only vanilla and saffron.
Cardamom varieties include: green cardamom (true cardamom, which is most common), white cardamom (bleached green cardamom used more for its pallor in certain Indian desserts), and black cardamom (not true cardamom but used in some Indian meat and vegetable dishes for spicier, more rustic presentations).
Cardamom pairs well with warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cumin, and ginger and is prevalent not just in Indian cooking, but also in Nordic baking (especially Sweden and Finland), Middle Eastern cooking and flavoring for coffee and tea, as well as in Nepali and Thai cuisines.
Cardamom should be purchased whole and kept in the pod until ready for use.
- whole seeds
Cardamom’s health benefits include its use as:
- a stimulant
- a treatment for indigestion and flatulence
- an aphrodisiac
In cardamom’s stead, cinnamon may be used with equal parts nutmeg, ginger, or ground cloves.