The distinctive flavor of cardamom, reminiscent of its cousin ginger with the slightest hint of pine, is a surprisingly versatile ingredient used in cuisine around the world. In its native India, it is instrumental in creating delicious curry and masala chai. Individual seeds are sometimes chewed to freshen the breath. Cardamom flavors both sweet and savory dishes throughout the Middle East and central Africa, and is even added to coffee. It is widely used in baking in Scandinavian pastries and sweet breads. It can be found in rice and bean dishes in Guatemala too.
Cardamom enhances squash, sweet potatoes, lentils, beans, basmati rice, pickling brines and pastries. It combines well with cumin and coriander.
Cardamom seeds are extracted from larger pods, which can be white, green or black. Green is the most common form, used either whole or ground. The seeds contain an essential oil that is rich in terpenes, terpineol and cineol, making cardamom a stimulant. Even so, when used in Ayurvedic medicine, cardamom is said to be calming to all doshas. Apart from refreshing the breath, chewing green cardamom seeds relieves indigestion, flatulence and treats infections of the teeth and gums. Using a few drops of pure cardamom oil can be even more effective, but it can be difficult to come by.
The delicate and spicy aroma of cardamom is wonderful in sachets and potpourris to freshen linens and dresser drawers. It can be added to sea salts for an invigorating bath experience as well. See below for some other delicious recipe ideas that include cardamom:
Mango Lassi: (Serves 2)
- 4 cups frozen or fresh mango chunks
1 can coconut milk
2 tsp fresh ground cardamom pods
Combine in blender until smooth, chill until ready to serve, garnish with fresh slice of mango.
Fruit Salad Dressing:
- 1/2 cup vanilla yoghurt
1 TB honey
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
2 TB shredded coconut
Combine ingredients in a small mixing bowl and serve over fresh berries or mangoes.
- Kowalchik, Claire, and William H. Hylton, Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, Rodale Press, Pennsylvania, 1987
- Morningstar, Amadea with Urmila Desai, The Ayurvedic Cookbook, Lotus Press, Wisconsin, 1990