Why is Cardamom "The Queen of Spices"?
- Author Princie Wilson
- Published May 3, 2023
- Word count 2,154
How well do you know about the spices that are the hidden magical ingredients in your food? We often miss out on the basic spices that make our food delicious and aromatic. Numerous ingredients magnify the taste of the food. One such taste-enhancing spice that you will find in your kitchen is - “Cardamom”
Cardamom: The Queen of Spices
Before we delve into the wonders of cardamom, let us understand what exactly are spices and what is their significance in our food. And why do they deserve the recognition and shout-out?
What are Spices?
In culinary art, typically spices are the dried parts of the plant such as seeds, bark, fruits, roots, or flower buds. Some examples of spices are cardamom, black pepper, ginger, cumin seeds, cinnamon, turmeric, cloves, nutmeg, and chilli powder.
For thousands of years, people of different cultures have been using spices to add taste, aroma, and colour to make food more exciting, pungent, and luscious. You can use the spices as whole, ground, roasted, or simply make a paste. It depends solely on your preference.
Not only do the spices enhance the taste and aroma of the food but they also come with a multitude of health benefits. Some of the spices also have medicinal effects, due to which people have been consuming them for such purposes.
They can be mild, pungent, spicy, and sweet and they give the necessary depth and twist to your meals. Mostly, they are blended as an idea of spice mixes such as garam masala or curry powder.
What is Cardamom?
Now that we know enough about the spices that we use in our kitchen. Let’s no about the top charter amongst all the spices i.e. Cardamom. Known as the “queen of spices”, cardamom is a popular spice in Nepali, Indian, Swedish, and Middle Eastern kitchens.
Sometimes people use the words “cardamom” and “cardamon” interchangeably. In both those cases, they are correct, but the meaning is still the same. In Nepalese kitchen, it is popular by the name “Alainchi”, or “Sukumel/Sukmel”.
Cardamom is a spice that has either whole or seeds or ground cardamom pods of Elettaria cardamomum or Amomum cardamom. Both of which are members of the Zingiberaceae family, better known as the ginger family. Also, it is a close relative to the turmeric family.
The form of cardamom pods is an unusual spindle. When split open, they feature a triangle cross-section. And, inside them, you can find several tiny cardamom seeds. Interestingly you can use both the seeds and the entire pod as spices to give your food a distinctive flavour and aroma.
Taste and Aroma
If you are a newbie to tasting cardamom, chances are you are likely to fall into the pit of confusion due to its complex flavour and odour. The cardamom has a subtle depth to its composition and appearance - that only means you are going to have a party of flavours. If you use it too much, it can turn slightly astringent.
It has a strong and pungent smell with a slight hint of a lemony aroma. And it has a flavour that is sweet, spicy, and a little citrus-like. Therefore, you can use this in sweet, savoury, dishes - the choice is yours. Oddly, it blends well with citrus, so you can make several dishes using the “queen of spices”.
History of Cardamom
In history, cardamom is regarded as one of the oldest spices in the world. This spice dates back at least four thousand to five thousand years in some parts of Europe, where people would use it for culinary purposes.
There is an old tale that mentions that the spice was initially discovered by the Vikings and then they took it back to the land of Scandinavia.
Originally, cardamom was produced from plants in the Western Ghats of South India. Later this spot became famous as Cardamom Hills because the cardamom-producing plants were found in large numbers.
It also has extensive importance in ancient Egyptian rites, rituals, medicine, and oddly for embalming. They nibbled the cardamom pods to keep their breath fresh and even for brushing their teeth as the cardamom has a pungent sense of smell.
Because of its strong scent, the natives of Greece and Rome included cardamom as one of the key ingredients in their fragrances and aromatic oils.
Current Cultivation of Cardamom
As of now, countries like Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, and Guatemala cultivate cardamom in their moist forests. But the cardamom from Nepal is the best one out there, that is why Nepal is the number one seller of cardamom all over the world. In Nepal, you will find 14 different cardamoms with their distinct aroma, flavour, and benefits.
As we discussed earlier, cardamom is extensively cultivated in the moist forests of Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, etc. The powerful spice grows in temperatures ranging from 15-20 degrees and at an exceptional height of between 8,000 metres to 21,000 metres.
Also, for growing cardamom, the region must have an annual rainfall of 1500 to 2500 mm. And they grow in acidic forest loam soils with a pH range of 5.5-6.5.
Cardamom specifically requires moisture to grow. So you can imagine the hardship that the cultivation of cardamom requires.
Steps to grow cardamom properly:
Before the cardamom reach its full maturity, the farmers use the method of plucking or trimming off the stems.
Then they clean and keep the trimmed or plucked stem in the sun or heated curing chamber to dry.
In the next step, the cardamom is put in the fumes of burning sulphur so that it can bleach it to a creamy white colour.
After the stem is well dried, they eliminate the tiny stems of capsules by using the winnowing method.
The shoots of the cardamom plant are leafy that arise from the branching roots. They have green petals and fruits which are also green in colour with a three-sided oval capsule that contains reddish brown seeds.
To enhance the growth of the cardamom, the farmers plant it in humus-rich soils that contain medium to high potassium and low to medium phosphorus. Varying with the regions, farmers tend to use 10-18-month-old seedlings.
Cardamom also has the potential of creating essential oils that occur in large parenchyma cells underlying the epidermis of the seed coat. Cineole and -terpinyl acetate are the main ingredients; the essential oil content ranges from 2 to 10%.
Types of Cardamom
Even Though in the market, only black and green cardamom is popular. Even amongst both, green cardamom predominantly owns the market. But little did you know that there are other types of cardamom available that have their unique features, aroma, and flavour.
Following are the types of cardamom that can uplevel your cooking skills:
The most known cardamom spice of all, green cardamom is the spice that has been used in many flavourful dishes such as biryani, curry, sweetmeats, and most often in tea. To preserve their green colour, farmers pick the seeds in a very immature state and sundry them.Also, they can maintain their aroma for a longer time. Not only cooking but green cardamom is widely used in the medicinal world to reduce digestive issues and to maintain clean oral health. The green cardamom seeds are whole, round, and green and have a hint of a sweet smell.
Another popular type of cardamom is the black cardamom, which is also known as ‘Amomum Subulutm’ that grows more in the Himalayas. It is a perennial plant that has hard, angular, strong black pods and seeds.
Black Cardamom spice has the most pungent, and strongest taste among all the other forms of cardamom. It has a bitter, slightly nutty and resinous taste with a nutty and citrus-like aroma. Furthermore, it is frequently used to deepen and complexify the flavours of savoury meals like curries, stews, and soups. It can also be used to flavour tea and other beverages, as well as in spice blends like garam masala. Along with its culinary uses, it also has significant use in traditional medicine since it has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. If you have tried black cardamom before, now is the time. Visit our store: Everest Organic Home to buy flabbergasting spices.
The White Cardamom is a little bland in taste due to its extensive bleaching. To acquire the white colour, the farmers bleach the cardamom. You can use it while you are baking, or making sauces and desserts. If you are not a fan of strong and pungent spices, you can use them fully in your dishes since it lacks pungent fragrance and taste. However, due to bleaching, the benefits that it contains are slightly less powerful than its other two sibling cardamoms.
Cardamom Pods vs. Ground Cardamom
The main difference between the pods and ground powder is that the pods come in their natural texture, shape, and size, while the ground one comes in a powdered form. Whole pods contain crunchy seeds that you can crush and remove the seeds from the inside.
Using the ground pods will also make the batters and baking better. And you can use the cardamom pods with vegetables while sauteing them in the oil.
Moreover, the cardamom powder has less life span(ideally around one month) and the pods have a longer lifespan. It's preferable to use the fresh pods because the flavour of cardamom powder soon diminishes, Therefore, the ideal situation would be to buy the pods and grind them in smaller quantities for your use.
What are the Benefits of Cardamom?
Along with its magic in the culinary world, it also has multiple health benefits that will surprise you. From treating gut issues to relaxing your mood, it is a well-known spice in the therapeutic field.
Some of its benefits are:
Improves Digestive Health: Cardamom is famous for helping with digestion and preventing problems with the digestive system such as bloating, gas, and constipation. Moreover, it can lessen the signs of irritable bowel syndrome and stomach ulcers.
Anti-inflammatory properties: Cardamom includes substances with anti-inflammatory qualities, which may help lessen bodily inflammation and ease the pain brought on by ailments like arthritis. It also might help to reduce puffiness in the body, which if not treated in time might cause several issues.
Improves Oral Health: Cardamom has a natural freshening effect that might help avoid foul breath. Moreover, it possesses antibacterial qualities that could help guard against mouth infections. Many toothpaste companies use cardamom as their secret ingredient to give you that freshness. In some south Asian families and restaurants, they serve cardamom along with sugar and cloves to cleanse your palate and give you a refreshing feel after the meal.
Rich in Antioxidant: It is a great source of antioxidants that can protect against oxidative cell damage and lowers your risk of developing chronic illnesses like cancer and heart disease.
Improves Respiratory Health: In traditional medicine, people have been using it to treat respiratory illnesses like bronchitis and asthma. Plus, it might help to release mucus and phlegm from the lungs, which can significantly improve breathing.
Improves Mood and Stress: Cardamom provides relaxing effects on the body, which may aid to alleviate tension and anxiety. Also, it might improve mental and emotional health. Consuming cardamom gives your freshness that also has a subtle connection with bettering your overall mood.
Improves Skin Texture: Due to the presence of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, it helps to fight against free radicals and prevents cell loss. Hence, consuming it gives you long-lasting glowing and radiant skin.
Overall, Cardamom is a powerhouse of health benefits - including both physical and mental. Therefore, everybody needs to try this magical spice.
Recipes of Cardamom
The speciality of cardamom is that it has applications in both savoury and sweet dishes. You can use it in any kind of biryani, curry and tea. Cardamom tea is popular for helping with digestive issues and weight loss.
In the baking world, you can use cardamom powder to bake delicious cookies, pastries, and cakes. You can also use it to make pudding, halwa, etc.
How to store and consume it?
Store it in an airtight container and avoid keeping it in sunlight and humidity - hence, store it in a cool and dry place. You can refrigerate the ground spice well for six months and ground spice for up to three years.
Even though cardamom has its usage in cooking, people also take to consume it raw as a supplement. While consuming it, adults should intake it by mouth up to 3 grams for four weeks. If any issues arise, it's advisable to talk to your physician.
Although it has always been popular in most Asian countries, it was one of the lesser-known spices among all. But with times changing, it is garnering the fame it deserved. Cardamom Is the spice that everybody should have in their kitchen for better health and better taste.
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