The cardamom spice is a member of the ginger family and is used to flavour food. The aroma is mild whilst the taste is sharply bitter and strong but is not unpleasant.
The cardamom plant, Elletaria cardamomum, originally comes from India and is a bush that grows to about 3 metres (10 feet). The cardamom plant is also grown in Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and Guatemala.
The cardamom pods are ready for picking at various times during the summer and it is the seeds of the pods that contain most of the flavour.
There are three types of cardamom, green, white and black. The white cardamom is just green cardamom that has been bleached. The green and white pods can be used in savoury or sweet dishes whereas the black pods are only used in savoury dishes. Some recipes call for the pods to be used whilst others only use the seeds.
If using cardamom powder in powder form, it is best to have cardamom pods and then you can grind the seds into powder when you need to use it. In this way, the powder is freshest and most potent.
Cardamom seeds are a main ingredient in garam masala.
Amongst other things, cardamom is used to treat flatulence, stomach disorders, tuberculosis, throat infections, gum infections and dysentery. Cardamom seeds are also used as a breath freshener in India (where they are chewed after a meal).