Cardamom is the third most expensive spice in the world. It is expensive because it must be harvested by hand (labor intensive), just as, the saffron and vanilla. India is the land of cardamom- Elettaria cardamomum. Cardamom spice is most commonly used in the Arab nations, Iran, Morocco, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, South Asia, Scandinavian, and Indian cuisines. As you can see, it is popular among varies countries but 80% of the world’s cardamom is used by the Arab nations to flavor their coffee. The cardamom-flavored coffee is called “gahira” in Arab homes. The Arabs know it as the “Welcome coffee”. It’s a sign of hospitality and generosity to guests. The crushed cardamom pods are stuffed into the spout of a coffee pot when the hot coffee flows over the spice; the brew has an aromatic refreshing flavor. Although cardamom is native to India but it was transported by Arab traders to the Mediterranean over millennia years ago. Cardamom is known as the “Queen of Spices”.
Cardamom belongs to the ginger family, zingiberaceae, just like turmeric, ginger, and galangal. It has a complex flavor that can be slightly sweet, floral, and spicy. Cardamom comes in several forms depending on how the seed pods are treated. The best cardamom comes from the rainforests of southern India.
Green cardamom pods are the preferred form of spice. Therefore, the pods are picked while still immature and sundried to preserve its green color. The green cardamom are hard to find and more expensive.
Cardamom seed has the outer pod removed. The seeds can be crushed or ground.
Black cardamom is dried over an open fire and has a smoky aroma.
White cardamom has been bleached to achieve its color. As we all know, when you bleach something it destroys its natural flavor.
Cinnamon is not the only spice that you have to distinguish between true and false. Cardamom as well – true cardamom and false cardamom.
The false cardamoms are, Chinese brown cardamom, Thai green cardamom, Nepal or large cardamom, and Java cardamom. India has a second cardamom between true and false, which is brown/black known as “bastard” cardamom. You can find the brown cardamom at an Indian market and the cardamom pods as well.
The true cardamom is Green Cardamom.
If you cannot find the pods, then buy the seeds instead of the ground cardamom. Why? The volatile oils in the seeds are sensitive and their aroma dissipates quickly after exposure to the air. The seeds are better to buy due to you can grind when you need to use the spice.
So, what’s the health benefits of Green Cardamom: the powerful phytochemical called cineole found in the spice
Ø Anti-inflammatory (analgesic properties)
Cardamom oil treats inflamed nerves, back muscles, and swollen joints.
Ø Digestive Aid (anti-spasmodic agents)
Helps stomach cramps, flatulence, and gas.
Seeds are crushed and steeped in hot water.
Ø Bad Breath (cineole)
Cardamom pods freshen and sweeten the breath.
Known as “Mother Nature’s toothbrush” – cleans teeth.
Ø Stops Ulcers
Cineole can slow or stop the development of aspirin-induced and alcohol-induced ulcers.
Ø Prevent Colon Cancer
Reduces the inflammation that fuels cancer growth, stops cancer cells from dividing, and kills cancer cells.
Ø Lowers Blood Pressure
Cardamom works like diuretic, a type of drug used to treat hypertension. Study available in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology
Ø Prevents Blood Clots (heart attacks & strokes)
Decreases platelet aggregation.
Ø Congestion Relief (relax the airways)
Improves blood circulation to the lungs, prevents spasms or convulsions.
Cineole reduces the need for steroids in asthma people.
Cineole offers relief to sinus infection, headaches, pain, nasal secretion, and obstruction.
Now you know green cardamom is the “Queen” hands down. You cannot beat that. Open your palates and try the wonderful spice- add it to your coffee, make a pleasant tea, or better yet use it as a breath mint or mouthwash.
Curious to know who is the “King of Spices”? Dare to take a wild guess?
Keep checking in to find out…