|True Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum)|
True Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum)
The name cardamom is used for herbs within two genera of the ginger family Zingiberaceae, namely Elettaria and Amomum. Both varieties take the form of a small seedpod, triangular in cross-section and spindle-shaped, with a thin papery outer shell and small black seeds. Elettaria pods are light green in color, while Amomum pods are larger and dark brown.
Types of cardamom and their distribution
The two main genera of the ginger family that are named as forms of cardamom are distributed as follows:
- Elettaria (commonly called cardamom, green cardamom, or true cardamom) is distributed from India to Malaysia.
- Amomum (commonly known as black cardamom, brown cardamom, Kravan, Java cardamom, Bengal cardamom, Siamese cardamom, white or red cardamom) is distributed mainly in Asia and Australia.
All the different cardamom species and varieties are used mainly as cooking spices and as medicines. In general,
- Elettaria cardamomum (the usual type of cardamom) is used as a spice, a masticatory, and in medicine; it is also sometimes smoked; it is used as a food plant by the larva of the moth Endoclita hosei.
- Amomum is used as an ingredient in traditional systems of medicine in China, India, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam.
- In the Middle East and Turkey, green cardamom powder is used as a spice for sweet dishes as well as traditional flavouring in coffee and tea. It is also used to some extent in some dish recipes. In Arabic, cardamom is called al-Hayl.
- In South Asia green cardamom is often used in traditional Indian sweets and in tea, or chai. Black cardamom is sometimes used in garam masala for curries. It is often referred to by its size as being 'Moti Elaichi' or fat cardamom. In Hindi and Urdu cardamom is called elaichi. It is called Elakka in Malayalam, language of kerala which contributes 70% of Indian cardamom.
- In Northern Europe, cardamom is commonly used in sweet foods.
- It has also been known to be used for making gin.
Uses in cuisines around the world
Cardamom has a strong, unique taste, with an intensely aromatic fragrance. It is a common ingredient in Indian cooking, and is often used in baking in Nordic countries. One of the most expensive spices by weight, little is needed to impart the flavour. Cardamom is best stored in pod form, because once the seeds are exposed or ground, they quickly lose their flavour. However, high-quality ground cardamom is often more readily (and cheaply) available, and is an acceptable substitute. For recipes requiring whole cardamom pods, a generally accepted equivalent is 10 pods equals 1½ teaspoons of ground cardamom.
In traditional medicine
In South Asia, green cardamom called "Elaichi", in Hindi and Urdu, is broadly used to treat infections in teeth and gums, to prevent and treat throat troubles, congestion of the lungs and pulmonary tuberculosis, inflammation of eyelids and also digestive disorders. It is also reportedly used as an antidote for both snake and scorpion venom.
Species in the genus Amomum are also used in traditional Indian medicine. Among other species, varieties and cultivars, Amomum villosum is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat stomach-aches, constipation, dysentery, and other digestion problems. "Tsaoko" cardamom is cultivated in Yunnan, China, both for medicinal purposes and as a spice.
Cardamom fruit and seeds
- Sa cardamom.jpg
Cardamom fruit and seeds close up
- Black and green cardamom.jpg
Black and green cardamom
- Mabberley, D.J. The Plant-book: A Portable Dictionary of the Higher Plants. Cambridge University Press, 1996.
- Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages: Cardamom
- Plant Cultures: botany and history of Cardamom
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