A question I hear frequently is, “Why is Cardamom so Expensive?”
Fact: Green Cardamom is one of the most expensive spices by weight in the world. Only a few others, such as Saffron and Vanilla, are more expensive.
The main reason this spice is so expensive is because it needs to be harvested by hand. It is a very labor-intensive handpicking process. Each cardamom pod must be picked when it is about ¾ ripe so time and care are needed to yield this spice. All this labor, care and timing are just more costly than other traditional spices that can be harvested by more automated means. An acre of cardamom will generally produce around 50 – 150 pounds of cardamom spice. Additionally, the demand for cardamom has been on the rise so the basic rules of supply and demand have also added to the price of this unique spice.
Alternatives? The taste is strong and some say it tastes like a combination of ginger and cinnamon. Others say it has a more unique, minty taste with hints of lemon. Some liken it to a mixture of nutmeg and cinnamon. However, there is truly nothing that tastes exactly like cardamom. Your best option is to use the real thing, or test different mixtures for yourself and use what you think tastes best.
The good news is that only a small amount of cardamom is needed to add flavor to your dishes. It is a highly potent spice. You can order in small amounts and a little will go a long way!