Greetings from QTrade Teas and Herbs!
We are pleased to bring you information this week on Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) as a continuation of our series on herbs
and spices. This spice is very popular in a wide variety of venues, particularly in chai
blends and as a culinary seasoning in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine.
Westerners have had contact with Cardamom for centuries. The ancient Romans knew called it cardamomum, inspiring the modern English word. Some scholars believe it to be among the spices that inspired Columbus’ voyage to find a faster route to India. It is still used in baked goods in Scandinavia to this day; a cultural residue of Viking raids in the Mediterranean hundreds of years ago.
Cardamom is originally from India, but because it is an integral ingredient in chai (the country’s most consumed beverage) India only produces enough to satisfy its own demand. For the last twenty years most of the world’s Cardamom supply has come from Guatemala where it has been grown since the early 20th century. The Cardamom industry employs nearly half a million people in the mountains of Guatemala’s Alta Verapáz province, making it even more vital to the local economy than coffee.
Cardamom and Ramadan
Guatemala’s exports also tell a fascinating tale. The majority of Guatemala’s Cardamom is sent to the Middle East, where it is mixed with coffee. Often the Cardamom is so liberally applied to the blend that it gives the coffee’s liqueur a distinctive greenish tint. Cardamom prices spike sharply in the weeks leading up to Ramadan and the Hajj as global demand for the spice’s flavor is dominated by the millions of Muslims en route to Mecca.
Though ancient peoples have attributed a wide variety of health affects to the spice (it is featured frequently in Arabian Nights as an aphrodisiac), Western medicine has yet to use it for anything beyond its carminative and flavoring properties.
It takes four whole pods to produce 1/4 teaspoon of ground cardamom. This is, in part, why Cardamom is the third most expensive spice in the world (behind vanilla and saffron). Cardamom is usually shipped as a whole pod to preserve the flavor of the seed inside. Once a pod is opened the seeds can dramatically decreases in aroma and flavor in a matter of hours.
QTrade carries three sizes of whole pod Cardamom. Jumbo Cardamom is green and the largest variety of pod available. #1 Cardamom has a smaller pod and is also green. #2 Cardamom is the same size as #1 but comes with pre-opened pods and often comes in a yellowish color. #2 is a favorite variety of customers who want to crush the pods themselves for maximum flavor.
We also carry Decorticated Cardamom where the seed has been removed from the pod in both whole and TBC cuts.
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