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Cardamom, cardamom seeds


cardamom seeds (Samen)



The tropical mountain forests of India are the home of the cardamom plant. Old manuscripts and Indian literature indicate that cardamom was known as a spice in Babylon as early as 700 b.c.

It was not known in Central Europe until the late Middle Ages. It was first mentioned in Germany around 1560.


India remains one of the chief producers of this spice today, but it is also cultivated on a large scale in Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Malaysia, Indonesia and Madagascar.



The fruits are picked and dried from September until December. Their dry seeds are sold year round, either whole or ground as a spice. Some specialty food shops also sell the entire fruits.


Appearance, taste, characteristics

The cardamom plant is a perennial, 2-3 m tall, whose thin, delicately pilose leaves may be up to 75 cm long. Botanically it belongs to the same family as ginger. Cardamom also forms thick tuberous rhizomes; however, in contrast to those of ginger, they are not used as a spice.


Instead, the fruit capsules are picked just before they ripen and open. These are oblong and between 0.5 and 2 cm in length. The fruits are washed and dried after being harvested.


Artificially dried capsules remain yellowish-green and are termed 'green', while sun-dried fruits turn beige-brown and are sold as 'sun-dried'. White capsules are called 'bleached' and have been bleached chemically.


Within the capsules are dark-brown seeds 2-3 mm in size that are also called cardamom. They are the part of the plant that is used as a spice.


The seeds smell fruity-sweet and slightly of camphor or eucalyptus. The taste is strongly aromatic, sweetish and stinging, fruity, somewhat smoky and warming.



Cardamom seeds contain 4-10% essential oil, the composition of which depends on their origin, variety and maturity. More than 120 different substances have been detected in the oil. Some of the main components are various terpenes, among them cineole, which gives the spice its camphor-like aroma.


In addition, cardamom contains starch and up to 10% fat in the seeds.


Quality criteria, optimal storage conditions

Cardamom keeps best when it is still in the fruit capsule. This protects the seeds from light and air and prevents the essential oil from evaporating. Closed airtight, in a cool, dark place, the dried fruits can be stored for at least 1 year. The exposed seeds lose their aroma after only a few months.


Cardamom powder should be kept for only a short time, because the essential oil evaporates quickly. The seeds are most aromatic when they are freshly ground just prior to use. Cardamom powder from the shops is often not as aromatic as seeds you have ground yourself, because entire capsules are frequently included.


Presumed effect on health

The spicy, slightly sharp taste of cardamom stimulates digestion, as it causes the body to produce increased amounts of gastric juice and bile.


Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation

Cardamom is usually sold ground, although it quickly loses its seasoning power in this condition. However, the fruit capsules and seeds are also sold.


Cardamom is used in Germany mainly for Christmas baked goods such as gingerbread, spiced biscuits, nut biscuits and stollen. It is also in special types of bread, sausage and liqueur. In Arabian countries, but also in Sweden and Finland, this spice is very important.


Piquant rice dishes, legumes / pulses, pot-roasted meat, sweet marinades and pickled herring can be enhanced with cardamom. Carefully measured, it is also good in pea soup, potato salad, meat patties, chicken fricassee, and fish sauces. You should also try cardamom in baked goods, puddings, ice cream and other desserts. It is particularly tasty with baked apples and oranges.

In the Orient, coffee or tea flavoured with cardamom is a specialty, and this is also found here and there in Europe. Here coffee is sometimes given a special note with a pinch of cocoa, salt and cardamom. Moreover, cardamom is a component of many mixed spices, for example for sausage, poultry, fish, soups, mustard and cookies, and is also in curry powder.


Seasoning tip

You should add cardamom to dishes about 5 minutes prior to the end of cooking. The aroma is stronger if the seeds are roasted first in a pan without fat. Cardamom goes well in salty dishes with pepper, chili, garlic, onions, allspice, caraway, coriander and cloves. It harmonizes with nutmeg in fish dishes and can be combined with cloves, saffron, star anise and cinnamon in sweet dishes.





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