Everything you need to know about cardamom

Cardamom, queen of Indian spices, is the dried fruit of a Zingiberaceous plant, just like curcuma or ginger.

Where does the cardamom come from?

It comes originally from the Cardamom Hills in the Kerala and the Malabar coast in South India. Today it is also cultivated in Cambodia, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.

What does it look like?

Cardamom comes in capsules (dried fruits, which take the form of small oval pods containing black seeds, where the aroma comes from). There are 3 different colours:

  • Green cardamom is the most flavoursome;
  • White cardamom, which doesn’t occur naturally but is obtained by the whitening of green cardamom;
  • Brown cardamom, which has a strong camphor taste, is less used in cooking.

Powder is less recommended because cardamom loses its flavour very quickly once the pods have been opened.

What does it taste like?

Cardamom has a lemony/camphory flavour, but it isn’t hot. Its smell and taste are very strong, so should be used sparingly.

How is the cardamom used?

In India, it is mainly used to flavour rice dishes (it’s one of the man spices in Indian curry or garam masala), or to make Chai tea. It is also widely used in Asian food in general and also in African cooking, especially in Ethiopia. In Europe it is mainly used in baking, and in North Africa it’s a much-prized coffee flavouring.