Cardamom is the fruit of a large wild bush that grows in the rainforests in mountainous regions, also known as Cardomom Hills, on the southwestern coast of India. Different kinds of cardamom grow in Sri Lanka. It has been used for various purposes in India for 2,000 years. It is known that cardamom reached Europe through caravan routes. Moreover, Vikings brought it thorough Istanbul to Scandinavia, where it still remains popular today.
Inside the capsule-like fruits of cardamom are around 15-20 tiny, slightly sticky, dark brown or black seeds. This sticky pattern is the most important sign of cardamom’s freshness.
Cardamom is harvested from September to December. They are dried in the sun for 3-4 days.
Cardamom has a slightly lemony, pungent but soft taste with notes of fruits, flowers and sweet eucalyptus. Besides the sense of freshness it gives, it contains notes of sharpness, smokiness, warmth and sweet-bitterness.
Cardamom works well both with desserts and savory dishes. It is one of the main ingredients of many spice mixes in India. It is used in meat dishes, pastries such as breads, cakes and cookies, pilafs, milk-based desserts and ice creams. It also adds a pleasant aroma in desserts prepared with fruits such as apples and pears. It also blends well with herbal teas and coffee.
The useful parts of cardamom are the seeds that come from its fruit. When buying cardamom, try getting as fruits with unpeeled capsules. The greener these capsule particles are, the stronger cardamom’s aroma is. As it gets older and loses its aroma, its outer shell whitens. Before using cardamom, open its shell and remove the seeds. Pound them up in a mortar before adding it to your meal.
You can keep shelled cardamom up to 1 year in a glass jar with a tight lid. It is normal if its color fades and the aroma becomes lighter in time.
Besides from its digestive features, one of the most important benefits of cardamom is its breath freshener quality. You can put the tiny capsules in a box and carry them in your purse. After meals or whenever you need to freshen you breath, try cracking the shells and refreshing your breath by chewing the particles.
Cardamom coffee is widely consumed in Arab countries. You can also prepare cardamom coffee in your own home and create unique coffee experience with a refreshing taste and a special aroma. For this, just pound ¼ of a dessertspoon of cardamom finely in a mortar and then mix it with a dessertspoon of Turkish coffee. For an extraordinary and special rice pilaf, beat cardamom seeds with cloves in a mortar and mix this with a freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of cinnamon. Right before removing your pilaf from the stove, add this spice mix to the pot and stir it gently. Remove the pilaf from the stove and serve it after 15-20 minutes.
To prepare a both healing and delicious tea, especially ideal for cold winter months, remove the seeds of 2 cardamoms and pound them up in a mortar. Mix 2 cloves, half a teaspoonful of ground cinnamon, ground ginger and nutmeg grater with ¾ glass of water and milk. On the other hand, brew your tea. Mix the boiling milk with ¼ glass of freshly brewed tea. Boil it for a few minutes and strain the tea. By adding in some honey, you can enjoy it while it’s still hot.