Cardamom is an intensely aromatic, sweet, complex spice that is used in classical Indian cuisine. Cardamom is also used extensively in the Middle East to flavor coffee and often appears in Scandinavian breads, cookies, and other baked goods. Cardamom has a strong, pungent flavor and aroma, with hints of lemon, mint and smoke.
Native to India, cardamom is related to ginger., but whereas ginger is valued for its rhizome (an underground part of the plant), it is the cardamom’s dried seed pods that are most commonly used in cooking.
There are three basic varieties of cardamom:
- Green, or “true” cardamom, is considered the finest and most aromatic of the three types. It’s used in sweet and savory dishes throughout India. Green cardamom is one of the most expensive spices by weight, but little is needed to impart the flavor. It is best stored in pod form because once the seeds are exposed or ground, they quickly lose their flavor. For recipes requiring whole cardamom pods, a generally accepted equivalent is 10 pods equals 1½ teaspoons of ground cardamom.
- White cardamom pods are green pods that have been bleached for aesthetic purposes, such as for light-colored breads and batters however the bleaching process diminishes some of the flavor
- Black cardamom comes from a different variety of the same plant. It has a distinctly smoky aroma and a strong, somewhat medicinal flavor. The skins of the pods are wrinkly and a bit thicker than those of green cardamom. Black cardamom appears in savory dishes in India, Morocco, and China.