Elettaria cardamomum is a member of the ginger (Zinziberaceae) family. The name cardamom (sometimes spelled cardamon or cardamum) means "grains of Paradise."
This versatile spice is prized by Indian, Scandinavian and Middle Eastern cooks. Sweet and spicy, warm and aromatic, cardamom adds a distinctive touch to cakes, pastries and breads and is equally compatible with meat dishes, curries, sweet potatoes and beans. Try crushing the seeds and adding to coffee for an authentic Middle Eastern treat.
Delicious, aromatic, and therapeutic, cardamom has long been appreciated. Ayurvedic writings from the fourth century B.C. discuss the healing properties of cardamom, and the ancient Greeks and Romans used it in foods and for medicines and perfumes.
Cardamom seeds are procured through the process of Decortication, in which the seed(s) shell or pod is removed. When good quality, fresh cardamom seed is decorticated the 1/8 inch light brown to black seeds initially cling together because of a sticky seed membrane. This membrane eventually dries to a white, flaky chaff-like substance that sticks to the seed or collects at the bottom of the bag. This chaff does not affect the flavor or quality of the seed. Recipes usually call for the whole or ground seeds rather than whole pods. The best quality cardamom seeds are fully ripe, hard, and dark brown in color. The strong, sharply aromatic flavor is often described as anise or eucalyptus-like.
Try cardamom in cakes, cookies and pies, stews and loaves, meat and vegetable pies, fruit salads and desserts (like baked apple), mulled wine, grape jelly, pickles, sausage seasoning, soups (especially split pea soup), and with sweet potatoes, carrots and squash.
Commercially, the fruits, seeds and oil are used to flavor beverages, frozen desserts, baked goods, candies, puddings, meats, fish, and condiments. It flavors custards, some Russian liqueurs, Arab and Turkish coffee, and Indian tea