What are Cardamom Pods
Cardamom (pronounced “kaar·duh·muhm”), Elettaria cardamomum, is also called green cardamomn pods or green cardamom. May also be referred to as True or “lessor” cardamom. Alternative spellings are cardamon or cardamum.
True Cardamom Pods have 2% to 10% volatile oil depending on where it is cultivated.
One ounce of Cardamom Pods is approximately 20 pods.
Known as the “queen of spices,” Cardamom is considered the 3rd most expensive spice in the world, after saffron and vanilla. Cardamom Pods are preferred by both chefs and serious home cooks. Top quality Cardamom is harvested while still immature and then sun-dried to preserve its bright green color. Smaller Green Cardamom Pods are generally more flavorful and thus the most prized. Because of their high volatile oil, whole pods have a superior ability to retain the much sought after flavor and aroma more so than either cardamom seeds or ground cardamom.
There are a total of 5 different types of cardamom. True cardamom is indigenous to the Malabar region of India. False or “greater” cardamom, Amomum compactum (also known as Java cardamom); A.globosum (Chinese round cardamom); A.korarimal (Ethiopia); and Afromomum subulatum (West Africa, Cambodia, North India). We carry the True cardamom.
In India whole pods are fried to extract the flavor and added to vegetable and meat curries. In Europe the seed is used to flavor breads and pastries. In the Arab world as a show of welcoming hospitality, visitors may be offered a cup of coffee flavored with cardamom and cream. In Scandinavian countries cardamom is found in various types of bread dishes, sweet pastry and is added to recipes the way we use cinnamon.
What do Cardamom Pods Taste Like
Cardamom's flavor is complex, slightly sweet, floral, and spicy with citrus undertones.
How to Use Cardamom Pods
It is best to grind cardamom fresh for superior aroma and flavor as once ground the volatile oils begin to dissipate quickly. Whole Cardamom pods, when slightly crushed, are used to flavor casseroles, curries, rice, and stew. Add both the crushed pod and the seeds to the cooking pot as the pod will dissolve while providing a bit of extra flavor to the dish. Be careful when using cardamom for the first time as a little goes a long way and it is very easy to overpower a dish.
Cardamom intensifies both savory and sweet flavors. Cardamom is used for savory flavoring in pâtés, purées, rice, sauces, soups, stews and with chicken, meats, seafood, and vegetables. If you want to enhance sweet dishes try adding cardamom seeds to your homemade custard, ice cream, rice pudding or sprinkle them over a fresh fruit salad.
If you just want the seeds place the cardamom pod(s) in your mortar and lightly pound the pods with the pestle. The pods will split open and the seeds will spill out.
We especially like Green Cardamom with apples, oranges, pears, sweet potatoes and use whole pods in coffee. Works well in combination with chili powder, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, paprika, pepper and saffron. Some of our favorite recipes using cardamom are Toasted Coconut Balls, and Masala Chai.
Green Cardamom is closely related to Black Cardamom. Black Cardamom should never be used as a substitute for Green as the flavor of the Black Cardamom is much earthier with sweet and flowery notes. You'll find Black Cardamom called for in some African recipes and in India it is used to add a bacony flavor to vegetarian dishes.
What is a Good Substitute for Cardamom Pods
The most common substitute for cardamom is equal parts ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg (i.e. 1 teaspoon of cinnamon + 1 teaspoon of nutmeg = 2 teaspoons of ground cardamom). We’ve also had success with using equal parts ground cinnamon and ground cloves.
Each Green Cardamom Pod holds 5-12 seeds and it takes about 10 pods to produce one teaspoon of ground cardamom.
What Is the Best Type of Cardamom
Cardamom is indigenous to India and up until the 1960s was the world’s leading exporter of cardamom. Since that time its pre-eminent position has declined and in the 1980s Guatemala emerged as the major exporter. Guatemala, in Central America, started cardamom cultivation in 1914. In 2017 Guatemala was responsible for 90% of world trade1.
In 2006 the Indian Institute of Spices Research conducted a comparative quality appraisal of exported cardamoms from India, Sri Lanka, and Guatemala. The cardamoms were characterized based on physical, biochemical parameters and molecular techniques. For most of the physical quality parameters and for the biochemical traits such as starch and crude fiber Indian cardamom was found to be superior to Sri Lankan and Guatemalan grown cardamom. The moisture content of Indian grown cardamom was also significantly less when compared to Guatemalan and Sri Lankan, which suggests comparatively better post-harvest practices being adhered to in India. The GC profile of the essential oils of Indian cardamom reported higher quantities of α-terpinyl acetate and 1, 8-cineole, which impart aroma and flavor to the cardamom2.
History of Cardamom
Cardamom is an ancient and beloved spice that has been in global demand for about as long as international trade has existed. Wild cardamom, with its small green pods—rough and papery, with a vague resemblance to miniature corn husks—first emerged in the low-lying, monsoon-fed rainforests that take up a narrow strip of land in India’s southwestern state of Kerala3. Known as ela in Sanskrit4, India’s first language, but its current name is of Greek origin. Derived from the Greek word kardamōmon, which is a compound word comprised of kardamon, a type of cress or peppergrass, and amōmon, a catch-all term for spice plants5.
It can’t be pinpointed when people first put cardamom to use, but it is known to have thousands of years of history behind it. By 7000 BC cardamom was already an established commodity in Babylon, the venerable capital of Mesopotamia, the ruins of which can be found in modern Iran. From Babylon it made its way across the Middle East6, eventually ending up in Greece by 50 AD5. Egyptians burned cardamom as incense and used it in perfume; archaeologists in Egypt recently found perfume vials that date back to the 3rd century BC7. The vials had a sludgy residue on the bottom. The residue was analyzed and the results found that cardamom was indeed an ingredient8.
Scandinavia is crazy about cardamom. Per capita, Swedish households use 18 times more cardamom than the median country when surveyed globally; Norway consumption is upward to 30 times the median9. Popular legend tells of Viking explorers who went to Istanbul (Constantinople, at that point in time) 1,000 years ago and liked cardamom so much they brought it back north. Culinary anthropologist Daniel Serra questions this. He says that cardamom came to Scandinavia as an organic progression of spice trading through Europe, largely thanks to the Moorish occupation of Spain. The Viking era lasted from the 9th to the 11th centuries, but cardamom doesn’t show up in the records of Scandinavian cuisine until more than 200 years after the end of the Viking era, with the publication of the Libellus de Arte Coquinaria by Danish monk Knud Juul10. This cookbook was written circa 1300 AD and is a compilation of Northern European recipes. Supporting the theory of organic movement, the Libellus de Arte Coquinaria was produced right in the middle of the Moorish occupation, which ran from 711-1492 AD.
Original harvests of cardamom relied on cultivating the wild cardamom plants that grew in Kerala and along the Malabar coast. And while it grew in abundance in that region, growing up into the foothills of the Western Ghat mountain range so much that this region was nicknamed the “Cardamom Hills”. British colonizers formalized cardamom cultivation and by the 19th century, after they had installed coffee plantations in the area, expanded their holdings by sowing cardamom farms11, setting the crop up for commercial agricultural use that is today still a major factor in Kerala’s economy.
Cardamom is a perennial plant that grows in clumps, 9 to 15 feet tall with long dark green leaves that are 12"-24" long and 2"-6" wide. The typical productive life of commercially cultivated cardamom is 10 to 12 years. Tilers that produce fruits die out within two years of producing new rhizomes and aerial shoots, so growth is continuous12. Cardamom grows well in humid and moderately cool climates with filtered sunlight through the tree canopy13. In India the natural habitat of cardamom is in the evergreen forests of Western Ghats where it grows at an altitude ranging between 2,000 and 4,000 feet above sea level. Because the area is prone to draught conditions there is considerable variation in the yearly rainfall pattern. A well distributed rainfall and irrigation schedule is needed to supply 60-100 inches of water per growing season that along with mean temperature of 60° to 78°F is ideal. Cardamom generally grows well in forest loamy soils that are acidic in nature, the preferable pH being 5.5-6.514. Mature cardamom plants flower and fruit every year and the harvesting season extends from May-June to November-December depending on local conditions, especially the availability of water15.
Prior to the 1960s, cardamom was propagated mainly by seed, but now typically only tillers are planted. The Indian Cardamom Research Institute and the Indian Institute of Spices Research have done extensive research on the improvement of cardamom quality and yield. The scientific consensus is that using tillers (rhizomes with aerial shoots) from superior stock results in a more mature root system, is less expensive than seedlings and the new plants have all the desirable characteristics of the mother plants while also bearing fruits earlier16.
The sowing time varies from place to place but sowing in September tends to produce the best germination. The floral stalks emerge in January and flowers appear in April. Flowering continues up to July-August. Fruits begin maturing in August-September. The number of irrigations required depends on the rainfall received during the growth period. Judicious irrigation during the summer months can increase yield by at least 50%17. In well irrigated areas the harvesting season can be extended to 8 to 10 months18.
When ripe, cardamom fruit is globose or ellipsoid, thin-walled, and smooth or with longitudinal ridges. Fruit shapes indicate varietal variations. The fruit is green colored and turns golden yellow on ripening. The seeds are white when unripe, turn brown on aging, and become black at full maturity. The number of seeds per pod varies between 10 and 20 depending on genotypes19. The small, brown-black sticky seeds are contained in a pod in three double rows with about six seeds in each row. Cardamom pods are between 1/4"-3/4" long.
Fruits are collected just before they ripen, as fully ripened fruits may split and much of the desired green color tends to be lost during the drying process. Fruits are handpicked, with the first harvested fruits occurring at the bottom end of the panicle (fruit stalk). In cardamom plantations the harvest is spread out over several pickings at intervals of 14-21 days with about seven to eight pickings per season. Harvested fruits are sent for processing immediately after picking. The primary processing consists of five stages – initial cleaning, mechanical drying, rub cleaning, final cleaning and grading, and packing20.
Where are Our Green Cardamom Pods From
|Also Called||True cardamom or “lessor” cardamom|
|Recommended Uses||Used to flavor casseroles, curries, rice and stew|
|Flavor Profile||Complex, slightly sweet, floral, and spicy with citrus undertones|
|Oil Content||2% to 10%|
|Botanical Name||Elettaria cardamomum|
|Cuisine||African, Asian, Cajun and Creole, Indian and Mediterranean|
|How To Store||Airtight container in a cool, dark place|
|Shelf Life||1-2 years|
|Country of Origin||India|
|Dietary Preferences||Gluten Free, Kosher, Non-GMO|
Hungry for More Information
1 Mishra, D. P., Mishra, S. P., & Mishra, N. (2018). The Enhanced Inland Food Chain and Export Disparities of Small Cardamoms in India: A Critical Review. International Journal of Research and Analytical Reviews, 5(3), 448–463.
2 Kizhakkayil, J., Thomas, E., Zachariah, T. J., Syamkumar, S., & Sasikumar, B. (2006). A comparative quality appraisal of exported cardamoms of India, Sri Lanka and Guatemala. Natural Product Radiance, 5(5), 361–365.
3, 11, 13 International Cardamom Association. (2019, August 29). Cardamom. Retrieved March 10, 2022.
4 Sarvade, D., Kamini, B., & Mohanlal, J. (2018, February). The queen of spices and ayurveda: A brief review . ResearchGate. Retrieved March 11, 2022.
5 Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved March 11, 2022
6 Campbell, F. (2015). The food of Oman: Recipes and stories from the gateway to Arabia. Andrews McMeel Publishing.
7 University of Iowa International Writing Program. (n.d.). Cardamom. Cardamom | Silk Routes. Retrieved March 11, 2022.
8 Daley, J. (2019, August 9). Cleopatra may have once smelled like this recreated perfume. Smithsonian.com. Retrieved March 11, 2022.
9 Dunn, S. (2021, March 30). Cardamom: How did it become Scandinavia's favorite spice?. Cook's Illustrated. Retrieved March 11, 2022.
10 Miltner, O. (2018, July 5). The hidden history of Scandinavia's love of cardamom. OZY. Retrieved March 11, 2022.
12, 15, 16, 18, 20 Kusters, K., & Belcher, B. (2004). Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) in Kerala, India (No. 1). Center for International Forestry Research.
14 VIJAYAN, A. K., PRADIP, K. K., & REMASHREE, A. B. (2018). SMALL CARDAMOM PRODUCTION TECHNOLOGY AND FUTURE PROSPECTS. International Journal of Agriculture Sciences, 10(16), 6943–6948.
17 Panda, H. (2010). Handbook on Spices and Condiments (Cultivation, Processing and Extraction). Reed Business Education.
19 Nair, K. P. (2020). The Geography of Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum M.): The “Queen” of Spices – Volume 2 (1st ed. 2020 ed.). Springer.
Serving Size1 tsp
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*