Cardamom is a spice that originates from Sri Lanka and it is one of the oldest spices in the world. Although cardamom is a traditional Indian spice, Guatemala is currently its largest exporter in the world. Cardamom is harvested by hand, shortly before full maturity, because when cardamom matures, the fruits open and all of the seeds fall out. This makes it, along with saffron and vanilla, one of the most expensive spices in the world.
This shrubby plant, with broom-like flowers, grows up to 3 meters in height and its shoots, which are just above the ground, can be up to 60 centimeters long. Cardamom blooms between January and May and the flowers are green, white or purple. When wilted, the stems create a capsule-like fruit, which can in turn be green or dark brown. Consequently, cardamom can be found either green or black. Each fruit has up to 18 pepper-sized seeds. The dried fruit, as well as its seeds, can be ground into a powder; but due to the essential oil in the seeds it must be freshly ground.
Cardamom gives a refreshing scent of menthol and a very intense taste reminiscent of mint, citrus, pepper, clove and allspice. Due to its intense flavor, cardamom should be dosed so that it doesn't assume the dominant taste of the drink or food. However, if you want to increase the intensity of the taste, you can open the cardamom grain and grind it into a powder.
As an indispensable spice in Indian cuisine and the main ingredient in various curries, pilafs, ice creams made from pistachios and almonds, it is also used in Arab cuisine in lamb dishes as well as in coffee brewing. In Europe, the most common use of cardamom is during the Christmas period when it is added to mulled/spiked wine and various cakes. It goes well with the hot spices like chilies and ginger that are in the same Zingiberaceae family.
Cardamom contains a large number of nutrients that include iron, magnesium, potassium and even traces of vitamin C. It stimulates metabolism and poor digestion, reduces heartburn, promotes circulation and reduces depression. Other than for medical purposes, Cardamom is also used in the cosmetic and perfume industry.