Organic Cardamom Seeds
Cardamom, Elettaria cardamomum, is a member of the Zinziberaceae family (ginger family) and is closely related to galangal, ginger, grains of paradise and turmeric. Cardamom is indigenous to the moist evergreen forests of the Western Ghats of Southern India; which interestingly is also the origin and the place with the greatest genetic diversity of black peppercorns. Cardamom is often referred to as the "queen of spices" (pepper is known as the "king of spice") and is considered the world's third most expensive spice behind saffron and vanilla. There are two types of cardamom - true, green or lesser cardamom and false or greater cardamom. False cardamom is less expensive and is grown in West Africa, Bengal, Nepal and Vietnam. Our organic cardamom seeds are considered green cardamom.
Cardamom is the firm, unripe dry fruit that contains about a dozen seeds. It's sold as a pod (whole or crushed), as whole seeds (referred to as decorticated cardamom) or as ground seeds. Most often, recipes call for the whole or ground seeds rather than the full pod, and cardamom intensifies both savory and sweet flavors.
We also carry an organic ground cardamom, which we grind weekly in small batches for optimum flavor.
Depending on its origins, true cardamom has 2% to 10% volatile oil and its instantly recognizable, pungent aroma comes primarily from the components 1,8-cineole (25% to 35%) and a-terpinyl acetate (28% to 34%). The essential oil is citrusy, spicy, sweet and musty, while the oleoresin (a mixture of the essential oil and a resin) is dark green, burning, cool and pungent.
Green cardamom is called hale or hab el-hal (Arabic), shiou dou kou (Mandarin), hel (Farsi), cardomome (French), cardamom (German), chotta elaichi (Hindi), karudamon (Japanese), cardamom (Portuguese), kardamon (Russian) and cardamom (Spanish).
The word "cardamom" is derived from the Latin "cardamomum", which was borrowed from the Greek "kardamomon", a compound "kardamon" (meaning cress) and "amomon" (which is believed to be the name for a kind of Indian spice plant).
Cardamom has a history in India that dates to ancient times, and the earliest written reference to cardamom was found on a clay tablet from the ancient city of Nippur (located in modern day Iraq), dated 2000 BC. It tells of ground cardamom being mixed with bread and added to soups. Cardamom grew in the gardens of the King of Babylon in 720 BC.
According to the ancient text Taittiriya Samhita (500 BC), from ancient Hindu culture, sacrificial fire was a common ritual in the ceremony of a Hindu marriage and cardamom was an ingredient used in the fire.
In the 4th century BC, the Greek "father of botany", Theophrastus (371-287 BC), was the first to distinguish the differences between brown and green cardamom. He later took over at Lyceum, the peripatetic school (the school of philosophy in ancient Greece), when Aristotle fled Athens. Spices were the symbols of royalty and luxury, and cardamom was used in the manufacture of perfumes during ancient Greek and Romans times. During this time, practitioners of Indian Ayurvedic medicine were also using cardamom.
Cardamom is believed to have been first imported to Europe in 1214 AD by Viking explorers visiting what is now modern day Turkey, after which they brought it back to Scandinavia, where it remains a popular spice.
Cardamom is perennial bush that grows wild in the tropics and is cultivated domestically in plantations. It reaches a height of 6'-16' and has long dark green leaves that are 12"-24" long and 2"-6" wide. Trailing leafy stalks grow from the plant base at ground level and these bear the seed pods. The flowers are green with a white purple-veined tip. The cardamom plant has a large creeping tuberous rhizome (a modified subterranean stem of a plant that typically grows underground, often sending out roots and shoots from its nodes).
In the wild, cardamom plants are traditionally grown in portions of the rain forest with little underground brush. In a plantation cultivation setup, the forest undergrowth is cleared and trees thinned to provide enough shade and the rhizome cuttings or seeds are planted at 10 foot intervals.
The plants are typically harvested between October and December. During the harvesting process, the timing is critical to ensure not only optimum quality, but maximum yield as well. When fully ripened, the cardamom pod splits open, which allows the seeds to be blown away or fall to the ground and get exposed to the air - so the pods must be picked while still in the slightly immature green state, and just as the seeds begin to turn dark (inside the pod). They are dried in the sun or bleached with sulphur fumes.
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.
Our organic cardamom seeds come from Guatemala.
In Asian Indian cooking, the whole green pods, cardamom seeds and ground cardamom are all used either during the cooking process or sprinkled on finished savory dishes. Green cardamom is an indispensable seasoning in halwa (a type of sweet confection), kesari (custard), ice cream, puddings and shrikand (yogurt). Cardamom also provides the signature savory flavor to Mogul-style biryanis and creamy kormas.
Cardamom is a key flavoring in Saudi Arabian and Turkish cuisine. Arabs add cardamom to a fiery meat and rice dish with dried fruits, nuts and saffron called kabsah (which is very much like an Indian biryani). In Saudi Arabia, ground cardamom is frequently added to a dark-roasted coffee called gahira (or gahwa) that is served to guests.
Other than in Scandinavia, cardamom has never been very popular in Europe. Cardamom plays a starring role in Southeast Asian curries, desserts and pilafs.
Cardamom is a staple ingredient in the spice blends Berbere and Garam Masala.
Cardamom works well in combination with caraway, chili powder, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, ginger, paprika and pepper.
One of our favorite recipes using cardamom seed powder is the sweet and savory Cardamom Spice Cake.
There's nothing subtle about cardamom, and its complex flavor is slightly floral, sweet and spicy with citrusy notes. The aroma will open up your sinuses with a strong menthol scent while leaving the tongue with a warm antiseptic sensation comparable to eucalyptus with peppery undertones. Some have described it as spicy and cola-like.
What's Better Cardamom Pods, Cardamom Seeds or Ground Cardamom?
While buying, ground cardamom provides the greatest convenience, but it certainly will not provide the most optimum flavor. Because of cardamom's high volatile oil content, the closer you can get to using the whole pods, the more flavor you'll get.
Buying cardamom seeds and grinding them yourself will provide more flavor than buying ground cardamom, and buying cardamom pods and grinding them will provide the most flavor of the three.
We've found that you can actually grind the whole pod and do not need to split the pod and remove the seeds prior to grinding. While the seeds alone make up about 70% of the total weight of the pod, there is no noticeable flavor difference between grinding only the seeds or grinding the whole pod.
If you have a recipe calling for cardamom, leaving it out will have a noticeable impact on the flavor of the dish. While there is no real substitute for cardamom's complex flavor, you do have options if you're in a pinch.
Option one -- to replace 1 teaspoon of called for cardamom use 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves and 1/2 teaspoon of cassia cinnamon.
Option two -- use 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon of ground cassia cinnamon to replace 1 teaspoon of cardamom.
We've also heard of some who recommend substituting cardamom with allspice, coriander or ginger, but we're not fans of these options, as we feel that the flavor profile differences are just too great.
If you have a recipe calling for whole cardamom pods you can use this handy conversion -- 5 cardamom pods equals about 1/4 teaspoon of ground cardamom.
Serving Size1 tsp
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*