What is cardamom
Cardamom, 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, Bhutan, Indonesia and Nepal. They are recognized 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.
Cardamom has a strong, unique taste, with an intensely aromatic, resinous fragrance. Black cardamom has a distinctly more smokey, though not bitter, aroma, with a coolness some consider similar with 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 equal 1 1⁄2 teaspoons of ground cardamom.
Why I should use cardamom
If you’re using cardamom in a recipe, ideally you’d start with whole cardamom pods. If you buy ground cardamom from the spice section, it won’t be as flavorful since the essential oils of the cardamom seed will lose their flavor relatively quickly after the seeds are ground. Your best bet is to start with whole cardamom pods and toast them in a dry skillet for a few minutes. Let them cool for a minute and then remove the seeds from the pods. Grind the seeds in a mortar and pestle for best results, or you can use a spice grinder.
The content of essential oil in the seeds is strongly dependent on storage conditions, but may be as high as 8%. In the oil were found terpineol 45%, myrcene 27%, limonene 8%, menthone 6%, phellandrene 3%, 1,8-cineol 2%, sabinene 2% and heptane 2%. Other sources report 1,8-cineol 20 to 50%, terpenylacetate (30%), sabinene, limonene 2 to 14%, and borneol.