Cardamom (Elaichi) is the seed of a tropical fruit in the ginger family. Fruits and seeds leave pleasant aroma with sweet, leaves a pungent after when eaten raw. Cardamom has a sweet, lemony, eucalyptus flavor. It is world's second most expensive spice. It is available as a powder, dried pods, or loose seeds. Green cardamoms are the most common, but there are also black and cream varieties. It is one of India's favorite spices, used in curries, savory and sweet dishes, ice cream and custards. It is often combined with almonds and saffron. It can be used to flavor tea and also is great with black coffee. It is used in Ayurvedic medicine to remove fat and as a cure for urinary and skin complaints.
Cardamom – Names in different Indian Languages.
Hindi – Elaichi, Bengal – Elach, Gujrati – Elchi, Punjabi – Elachi
Tamil - Yelakkai, Urdu – Illaichi
There were initially three natural varieties of green cardamom plants.
- Malabar (Nadan/Native), as the name suggests, is the native variety of Kerala.
- Mysore, as the name suggests, is a native variety of Karnataka.
- Vazhuka is a naturally occurring hybrid between Malabar and Mysore varieties
- Recently, a few planters isolated high-yielding plants and started multiplying them on a large scale. The most popular high-yielding variety is 'Njallani'.
The seeds are aromatic, sweet cooling, carminative (cures flatulence), digestive, stimulant and tonic. Cardamom finds usage in indigestion, anorexia, burning sensation, debility, asthma.
It is an important ingredient of garam masala, a combination spice for many vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. The pods can be used whole or split when cooked in Indian substantial meals — such as pulses. Otherwise, the seeds can be bruised and fried before adding main ingredients to the pan, or pounded with other spices as required. Keep the pods whole until use. The pod itself is neutral in flavour and not generally used, imparting an unpleasant bitter flavour when left in dishes Cardamom is often included in Indian sweet dishes and drinks. At least partially because of its high price, it is seen as a ‘festive’ spice.. It is occasionally used as a garnish in basmati rice and other dishes. Cardamom acts as a mouth-freshener after meals like the clove and fennel seeds. Tea and coffee made with cardamom are pleasantly aromatic and refreshing.
It is best to buy the whole pods as ground cardamom quickly loses flavor. High-quality ground cardamom is often more readily available and is an acceptable substitute. For recipes requiring whole cardamom pods, a generally accepted equivalent is 10 pods equals 1½ teaspoons of ground cardamom.
Due to its high price, it is often adulterated therefore it is recommended to buy it from a known vendor.