Cardamom is a member of the ginger family and has a thick fleshy root, a rhizome. It is a bushy plant, about 3 meters tall with straight stems, symmetrical dark green pointed leaves, and lightly colored flowers with white and blue stripes and yellow borders throughout the year. Fruits grow in pods, about 12 per pod.
Other Names Cinnamon palm, Cardamon, Bastard Cardamom, Grains of Paradise, Pai-Tou, Sha-Ren, Elachi, Ela, Capalaga, Malabar Cardamom, Cardamom
History and Folklore
It is believed that the West got its first taste of cardamom when Alexander the Great brought it back from India. It was used widely in Europe to treat digestive problems.
In Asia and Africa, cardamom has been used to flavor food for centuries and has also been used as an aphrodisiac. It is a very important part of everyday Indian and Arabic cuisine.
Cardamom is an important ingredient in coffee in many cultures. For Arabic coffee, seeds are ground and added to coffee grounds before brewing or pods are steeped in the coffee itself. In Bedouin tradition, cardamom pods are placed in the spout of the coffee pot so just the right amount of cardamom flavor is added as the coffee is being poured.
In Ethiopia, coffee beans are roasted together with cardamom seeds and other spices immediately before the coffee is prepared. All of these are parts of important hospitality traditions within their cultures.
Elettaria spp. Native to India and Malasia
Amomum spp. Native to Asia & Australia
Sow seeds in autumn or propagate by division in spring or summer. Prefers rich, moist soil in part shade. In the north, this plant should be grown in a pot and brought in when temperatures drop below 65 degrees.
Cardamom is grown commercially in India, Guatemala, Sri Lanka, Cambodia & Vietnam
Harvesting & Storage
Cardamom pods should be picked when they are plump, but still immature and laid in the sun to dry.
The fruits should be stored whole and dry. The seeds can be removed and ground immediately before use. They lose flavor quickly when outside the pod and even more quickly when ground.
When shopping for cardamom pods, only buy green ones. White pods have been bleached and the brown ones will not have the flavor you’re looking for.
To encourage a would-be lover, chew some cardamom seeds before talking to him or her. This is also useful in any situation calling for eloquence, when you must charm your audience. Cardamom seeds can also be added to lust drawing sachets. Cardamom is a stimulating herb that relaxes the body and clarifies the mind and should be used in any situation where these are needed.
The larvae of the Endoclita hosei use this plant for food, so it can be used in the butterfly garden in areas of this species’ range.
Cardamom seeds can be chewed after a meal to freshen the breath. It has a eucalyptus-like flavor.
Cardamom is fragrant and often used in perfumery. Seeds can be placed in sachets and stored with linens to keep them smelling nice. And since Cardamom is an aphrodisiac, their scent might be particularly welcome on your sheets. (If you want to sleep, use lavender instead). You can also impart their fragrance into your laundry by making a sachet for your dryer (old pantyhose work wonderfully for this).
Cardamom has expectorant, stimulating, tonic, warm, aphrodisiac, antibacterial, antimycotic, antiviral, carminative, antispasmodic and expectorant effects.
Amomum spp is used most widely in Asian traditional medicine, especially in India.
A. subulatum, commonly called Elaichi is used to treat infections of the teeth & gums, throat troubles, coughs, congestion, tuberculosis, inflammation of eyelids and stomach complaints. A. villosum is used in Chinese medicine for stomach complaints, constipation, dysentery called “Tsaoko”
People who have digestive problems, particularly with gluten, may find it helpful to have a cup of cardamom tea after a meal. Or Chai tea, which contains cardamom. It is also excellent for chest congestion.
Elettaria cardamomu, and Amomun kravanb are both used for food
Cardamom is used in Turkish, Arab, Indian and African cuisine and some Scandinavian and German cookies, pastries and sausages. Its addition to a dish immediately gives it an Eastern flair. It is used in Chai tea, Turkish coffee and Belgian ale beers. Ground cardamom seeds are used in baking. You can find white cardamom, that is, seeds that have been bleached, if you do not want the black specks of ground unbleached cardamom seeds in your food.
Cardamom pods and seeds (ground or not) are used to flavor seafood, chicken, rice dishes, and stews. It is an ingredient in curry powder and Garam Masala.
You can place whole cardamom pods in stews or rice dishes at the beginning of cooking and remove them at the end, or remove the seeds from the pods and grind them immediately before sprinkling onto your dishes toward the end of cooking.
Drink cardamom tea after every meal to aid digestion and prevent gas. Milk boiled with cardamom seeds is excellent with a little honey.
Cardamom should not be used by pregnant women or people with gallstones.