Cardamom: Cultivation, varieties & taste

In the Western countries, it is mainly the green cardamom that is widespread. Its small green seed capsules are harvested by hand shortly before ripening. The seeds inside the capsule are the actual spice. They contain an essential oil whose aroma is preserved by the capsule shell. Cardamom tastes spicy and sweetish and has a slight, eucalyptus-like pungency. It belongs to the so-called ginger family and originally comes from Asia. There, cardamom is an important component of many spice mixtures. In the Arab world, the strong coffee known as mocha gets its typical spicy flavour from the addition of cardamom.

In addition to green cardamom, there is also black cardamom. In comparison, it tastes earthy and tart and is mainly used in hearty meat dishes in Indian cuisine.

Cardamom and its effects

The healing power of cardamom has been known since the time of the ancient Romans. They liked to use the aromatic seeds after their excessive eating binges, as cardamom is supposed to calm the stomach and stimulate digestion.

Today, there are various medicinal preparations for flatulence and digestive problems that contain cardamom.

The essential oil is also said to help with bad breath due to its intense scent. It is also said that cardamom lifts the mood and promotes pleasure. However, this has not yet been scientifically proven.

What should one pay attention to when buying and storing cardamom?

Cardamom seeds are available in ground form or still sealed in capsules. The finished powder is easy and effortless to dose and dissolves well in liquids. Make sure to close the package tightly. The essential oil evaporates very easily.

The full cardamom aroma comes mainly from the seeds of the unopened capsules. If the capsules are intensely green and comparatively large, this indicates good quality. High-quality cardamom has its price, however, as the elaborate harvest makes it a similarly exclusive spice as saffron and vanilla.

To preserve the special flavour of the cardamom seeds for a long time, light- and airtight storage is recommended. To use the seeds, take the required amount, break open the capsules and collect the seeds. These are either used whole or ground into a fine powder in a mortar.

What does cardamom taste like?

There are three different types of cardamom – green, black and white. Those who take it very seriously insist that there are actually only two varieties, because white cardamom is only bleached green cardamom and therefore does not deliver any differences in taste. The black cardamom – also called brown cardamom or Nepal cardamom – is different. It is tart, earthy, bitter and has less fresh notes than the green cardamom. In this respect, this cardamom is very different from the variety most commonly found in kitchens: green cardamom. This is usually what is meant when we talk about “cardamom”.

The small seeds that are found in the three-edged capsules are used as a spice. There are about 12 to 24 of them in each of these capsules. The seeds are brown-black and sticky – the stickier they are, the fresher they are.

Green cardamom smells balsamic and warm with notes of cocoa and dark chocolate. It tastes fruity, floral, spicy and lemony with cool fresh hints of camphor and menthol.

How do I season with cardamom?

There are different ways to season your food with cardamom.

Ground: Ground cardamom is used especially in desserts or baked goods.
Cardamom pods: Lightly pestle them in a mortar so that they are slightly cracked, but the seeds do not fall out. Then cook straight away and remove before serving.
Cardamom seeds: Either cook them whole or remove the seeds from the capsules, roast them briefly and then crush them.
To allow the full aroma of the cardamom to develop, the capsules should be added to the pot right at the beginning.