This exotic spice has an intoxicating, rich aroma with complex flavors of sweet floral notes, camphor, lemon, mint and a hint of pepper. Cardamom is the dried seed pod of an herbaceous perennial plant in the ginger family and is native to India, Bhutan and Nepal. Inside the pod, the seeds are grouped in clusters with a sticky resin-like coating; this is an indication of certain freshness.
There are three varieties of cardamom with the two main types being the black and green pods and the white cardamom, which is simply bleached green cardamom. This process of bleaching softens the dominance of the menthol note giving the white pod a sweet and pleasant flavor. In some European countries, specifically Scandinavia, the white cardamom is the preferred style found in most of their baked goods.
Black cardamom has a totally different flavor than the popular green pods. When the pods are dried, they turn black which gives them a prominent smoky characteristic with strong peppery overtones. It is one of the essential ingredients in North Indian curries. Black cardamom has even made its way as a primary ingredient in certain fusion cuisines like Indian-Chinese Sichuanese red-cooked dishes. It also works very well in bitter foods that require extended cooking, such as collard greens. Just by adding a few pods to rice or lentils during the cooking process can heighten the flavor of these simple dishes to something quite interesting. Sometimes I like to use cardamom when making a dry rub for meat, or as an ingredient in sauces. Continue reading