Thursday, 8 December 2016

ALL ABOUT CARDAMOM

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“All those spices and herbs in your spice rack can do more than provide calorie-free, natural flavorings to enhance and make food delicious. They're also an incredible source of antioxidants and help rev up your metabolism and improve your health at the same time.” - Suzanne Somers 

Cardamom (sometimes Cardamon or Cardamum), is a spice made from the seeds of several plants in the genera Elettaria and Amomum in the family Zingiberaceae. Both genera are native to India (the largest producer until the late 20th century), Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Indonesia and Nepal. They are recognised by their small seed pods: triangular in cross-section and spindle-shaped, with a thin papery outer shell and small black seeds; Elettaria pods are light green and smaller, while Amomum pods are larger and dark brown. The German coffee planter Oscar Majus Kloeffer introduced Indian cardamom to cultivation in Guatemala before World War I; by 2000 that country had become the biggest producer and exporter of cardamom in the world, followed by India. Some other countries, such as Sri Lanka, have also begun to cultivate it. Cardamom is the world's third-most expensive spice, surpassed in price per weight only by vanilla and saffron.

The word "cardamom" is derived from the Latin cardamomum, which is the Latinisation of the Greek καρδάμωμον (kardamomon), a compound of κάρδαμον (kardamon), “cress” + ἄμωμον (amomon), which was probably the name for a kind of Indian spice plant. The earliest attested form of the word κάρδαμον signifying cress is the Mycenaean Greek ka-da-mi-ja, written in Linear B syllabic script, in the list of flavourings on the “Spice” tablets found among palace archives in the House of the Sphinxes in Mycenae (≈1250 BC).

There are two main types of cardamom:
True or green cardamom (or, when bleached, white cardamom) comes from the species Elettaria cardamomum and is distributed from India to Malaysia.
Black cardamom, also known as brown, greater, large, longer, or Nepal cardamom, comes from species Amomum subulatum and is native to the eastern Himalayas and mostly cultivated in Eastern Nepal, Sikkim and parts of Darjeeling district in West Bengal of India, and Southern Bhutan.
The two types of cardamom, κάρδαμομον and ἄμωμον, were distinguished in the fourth century BCE by the Greek father of botany, Theophrastus. Theophrastus and informants knew that these varieties were originally and solely from India.

Cardamom has a strong, unique taste, with an intensely aromatic, resinous fragrance. Black cardamom has a distinctly more smoky, though not bitter, aroma, with a coolness some consider similar to mint. Green cardamom is one of the more expensive spices by weight, but little is needed to impart flavor. It is best stored in the pod as exposed or ground seeds quickly lose their flavor. Grinding the pods and seeds together lowers both the quality and the price. For recipes requiring whole cardamom pods, a generally accepted equivalent is 10 pods equals 1 and 1⁄2 teaspoons of ground cardamom.

It is a common ingredient in Indian cooking. It is also often used in baking in the Nordic countries, in particular in Sweden and Finland, where it is used in traditional treats such as the Scandinavian Jule bread Julekake, the Swedish kardemummabullar sweet bun, and Finnish sweet bread pulla. In the Middle East, green cardamom powder is used as a spice for sweet dishes, as well as traditional flavouring in coffee and tea. Cardamom is used to a wide extent in savoury dishes. In some Middle Eastern countries, coffee and cardamom are often ground in a wooden mortar, a mihbaj, and cooked together in a skillet, a mehmas, over wood or gas, to produce mixtures as much as 40% cardamom.

 In Asia both types of cardamom are widely used in both sweet and savoury dishes, particularly in the south. Both are frequent components in spice mixes, such as Indian and Nepali masalas and Thai curry pastes. Green cardamom is often used in traditional Indian sweets and in masala chai (spiced tea). Both are also often used as a garnish in basmati rice and other dishes. Individual seeds are sometimes chewed and used in much the same way as chewing gum. It is used by confectionery giant Wrigley; its Eclipse Breeze Exotic Mint packaging indicates the product contains “cardamom to neutralize the toughest breath odors”. It is also included in gin and herbal teas.

In the language of flowers, if cardamom flowers are included in a bouquet (rare though that may be!) they mean: “You are my heart’s desire”. Offering of cardamom pods signifies: “Let us spend the night together”. The return of the pods means “No”, while non-return means “Yes”.

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