A Beginner’s Guide to Shopping for Cardamom

Cardamom is one of the world’s most expensive spices. It can be used in sweet and savory dishes and is often a component in spice blends like curry powder or garam masala.

There are three main types of cardamom: black, green and Madagascan. Black cardamom tends to have a smoky flavor and is often used in Indian sweets such as gulab jamun, while green cardamom is primarily used in savory dishes like curries and rice dishes. Madagascan cardamom has more of a floral aroma than the other two varieties.

Cardamom is a spice that has been held in high regard for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians used cardamom to treat toothaches and digestive issues, while the ancient Greeks and Romans used it as an ingredient in perfume. In the Middle Ages, cardamom was so prized that it was considered more precious than gold or silver.

The spice hails from southern India and Sri Lanka and is closely related to ginger. Cardamom seeds grow inside pods, which are then dried and sold whole or ground. The plants are also grown in Guatemala, Indo-China, Tanzania and Ecuador, but Indian cardamom is considered the best quality.

There are two main types of cardamom: green and black. Green cardamom is the most popular form; it’s often called for in Indian recipes like chai tea, curries and rice dishes like biryani. Black cardamom has a similar flavor profile but with smoky notes, making it better suited to savory dishes like meat stews or pulao rice.

Of course, you don’t need to seek out obscure Indian recipes to use this aromatic spice. Cardamom can be added just about anywhere you would use cinnamon — think oatmeal, coffee

Cardamom is a spice made from the seed pods of various plants in the ginger family. It’s very aromatic, with a complex, slightly sweet flavor. Cardamom is one of the most expensive spices by weight but little is needed to impart flavor. It’s used in both sweet and savory dishes, though in many parts of the world it’s considered a premier seasoning for meat. While cardamom is native to the East, it’s now grown throughout the world.

Cardamom is a spice made from the seed pods of various plants in the ginger family. There are 3 types of cardamom: green, black and Madagascar or white. The pods are gathered just before they open on their own when they are dried in the sun or a low temperature oven. The most common variety is green cardamom, which is sold either whole or ground. Most recipes call for green cardamom, but any type can be substituted if necessary.

Green Cardamom

This type is native to India and is often referred to as true cardamom. Cardamom has a sweet flavor with hints of mint and lemon. It is available as whole pods, split open pods, seeds only, ground powder or oil. Green cardamom is used in Indian cooking such as masala chai tea, curries and rice dishes such as biryani. It also shows up in Swedish breads and desserts like gingerbread, chocolate cakes, custards and other sweet confections.

There are two main types of cardamom.

True cardamoms: The ones we most commonly use at home and in professional kitchens are the pod-like fruits of a plant of the ginger family. They are sold in many markets and are usually labeled green or true cardamom. The pods contain dozens of small seeds; each seed is enclosed in a white membrane that should be removed before using the seed. The pod itself can be ground and used, but it’s more common to just grind the seeds and discard the pod (unless you’re making chai).

Cardamom also comes in whole form, where you can see the dried seeds inside. It’s often sold like this in Indian markets, where it is known as elaichi. You’ll want to buy whole pods if you’ll be grinding them yourself, but if you plan to use cardamom pre-ground, I recommend buying seeds only (which will often come already out of their pods). Seeds that you grind fresh have much more flavor than pre-ground ones. Green cardamom is what’s most often used in baking and cooking around the world, but there are other types to know about:

Black Cardamom: A type of cardamom that looks similar to green

In its green form, the pods contain a sticky, gelatinous flesh that has a floral smell. In this form, it is mostly used in savory dishes. Black cardamom is crunchy but much drier and has a smoky flavor. It is mostly used to give meat dishes a smoky taste as well as to impart an earthy flavor in lentil based dishes.

Some of the popular uses include:

Whole: Use whole pods in rice or other grain-based dishes, spice blends, curry pastes and pickles.

Powdered: Use powdered cardamom in desserts like puddings, cakes, cookies and custards.

If you’ve never tasted cardamom, you’re in for a treat. Cardamom is one of the world’s most unique and distinctive spices, with a flavor that is simultaneously pungent, sweet, herbal, and smoky. It’s not a spice that people have neutral feelings about. In fact, I haven’t yet met anyone who isn’t completely enamored by it.

The plant from which cardamom comes belongs to the ginger family and grows in India, Sri Lanka, and other tropical regions of Asia. Only the seeds are used for cooking; these are either ground into a powder (similar to the way black pepper is ground), or for the best flavor whole pods can be used (similar to how whole peppercorns are used).

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