The next spice we will take a closer look at in our History of Spice Series is Cardamon.
Common Name: Cardamom
Latin Name: Elettaria Cardamomum
Other Names: Capalaga, Ilachi, Green Cardamom, True Cardamom, Ceylon Cardamom
Cardamom is a spice that comes from the seeds of a various plants in the ginger family. It is native to Southern India and also grown in Guatemala, which is the largest producer and exporter of this spice in the world. It has a strong aroma similar to cloves. The taste is also strong, some say it tastes like a combination of ginger and cinnamon. Others say it has a more unique, minty taste with hints of lemon. Green cardamom is one of the most expensive spices by weight. However, since it has such a strong flavor a little goes a long way. This spice is used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine.
Cardamom is considered to be one of the world’s oldest spices. The use of this spice dates back at least 4000 years. Ancient Egyptians used Cardamom for many medicinal purposes, as part of rituals and even for embalming. They chewed cardamom pods as a way to help keep their breath minty and to help clean their teeth.
The Greeks and Romans used Cardamom for its pungent aroma. It was a main ingredient in perfumes and aromatic oils.
Vikings first discovered this spice during their travels and brought it back to Scandinavia.
Cardamom originally came from wild plants located in the Western Ghats in Southern India. The plants grew in such abundance in this region that this area became known as Cardamom Hills.
During the 19th century, plantations of cardamom were set up by British colonists and this is where much of the green and black cardamom that we use still comes from today.
Guatemala is the biggest commercial producer of cardamom. In some parts of Guatemala, it is considered even more valuable than coffee as a crop.
In Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine, cardamom is very popular in curries and is generally one of the spices used in their typical spice blends.
In Asia, this spice is often used to make cardamom tea, a traditional drink.
It is also a very popular spice in many Scandinavian recipes such as mulled wine and glogg. It is used in all types of sweet pastry and bread dishes.
Cardamom has been used medicinally for thousands of years. It has been most commonly used to treat indigestion, asthma and bad breath.