Cardamom is the world’s third most expensive spice, after saffron and vanilla; however, at 28 grams (1 ounce) for a pound, a few seed pods in your evening curry or morning tea won’t set you back too much. It comes in large wrinkly black pods or, more commonly, in smaller, slightly less wrinkly, green ones. It has a strong, unique flavour and a rich woody smell, even one or two green pods can change the flavour of a large pot of food.
Cardamom is a member of the ginger family and, like ginger, is known to aid digestion, particularly of wheat and dairy. It is reputed to be carminative (a wonderful word for something that reduces flatulence), stomachic (digestion aid), abortifacient (although it doesn’t affect pregnancy in normal food quantities), antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and a diuretic. It is often chewed after meals to cleanse the mouth and aid digestion, and is considered useful in the treatment of constipation, colic, diarrhoea, gastritis, vomiting, headache, epilepsy, and cardiovascular disease.
Across the Middle East coffee is brewed with cardamom, and in India it is added to black tea. Research suggests that cardamom neutralises the caffeine and the acidity in coffee, protecting against the indigestion, or shall we say ‘over-digestion’, that coffee can bring about.
Recipes With Cardamom
As Winter draws to a bitterly cold end, let’s all try and warm each other up with nice, curried vegetables. Here’s a delicious recipe by Vivek Singh (originally from his Mother but I’m not sure of her name) that uses black cardamom. It’s a great dish to cook for a group as it has a convenient break in the middle where you can prepare other things, or just wait until everyone is hungry. Vivek recommends it with Butter Chicken, a recipe that can be found online and followed using portobello mushrooms instead of chicken for vegetarians.
One of the brilliant things about Cardamom is that it is used in both sweet and savoury dishes. Here is my Dad’s recipe for Cardamom, Orange and Dark Chocolate (if desired, and we find it usually is) Biscuits. It uses green cardamom.