Black Cardamom Pods: Flavor Profile
Black cardamom pods differ greatly in taste from the more common green cardamom pods. The black variety – which originated in South India – work well in dishes that stew, which brings out the smoky clove-like flavors and cinnamon notes. A member of the garlic family, black cardamom is one of the world’s oldest spices and adds complexity and boldness to any dish.
Cooking with Black Cardamom
Black cardamom is one of the most common spices in Indian, Nepalese and southeast Asian cuisine. And it has many uses in the kitchen – from spicing dishes to making blends for teas and dry rubs.
Most commonly black cardamom pods are used for:
- Finishing Spice –The pods added to dishes whole, or slightly pounded within slow-cooked dishes. Unlike green cardamom, the seeds remain in the pod during cooking, but are typically removed at the end.
- Spice Blends – Black cardamom is a great blending spice, and is often used to create dry rub blends
- Powders – Some choose to remove the seeds and grind them, for a black cardamom powder, or add the seeds to dishes. Whole pods can be ground, but the fleshy shell can be tough to grind.
- Veggie Dishes – Black cardamom pairs nicely with cauliflower, chicken, curry, ginger, lamb, potatoes and rice
Most dishes that call for black cardamom are long simmering and slow-cooked stews, soups and curries. Longer cook times allow the complex flavors and oils of the pods to release, and enliven any dish, stew or curry. The spice pairs nicely with cumin, mustard, bay leaves and dry chili peppers.
Black Cardamom: History and Origination
Black cardamom is native to the sub-Himalayan region of Nepal, India and Bhutan. And has been grown there for centuries.
Cardamom – which is known as the “Queen of Spices” – is the flower of an herbaceous perennial from the ginger family. There are 16 different varieties of cardamom.
These cardamom pods have numerous uses in Nepalese and Indian cooking, as well as in Chinese medicine. The Chinese, for example, chew cardamom pods to freshen breath and to ease stomach aches.
Throughout history, though, the spice has been widely circulated around the world, and it has influences in many world cuisines. It first appeared in Europe around 1200 A.D., and the Vikings are believed to have taken the spice to Scandinavia. The result: Many dishes from the Netherlands call for cardamom.
Black cardamom continues to be widely produced in Nepal, as well as other southeast Asian countries. Today, though, Guatemala is the world’s largest producer, followed by India and Sri Lanka.
Cultivation of Black Cardamom
The foothills of the Himalayans offer the best growing conditions for Large Cardamom, the plant which produces black cardamom pods. The plant is a perennial, which grows annually for up to 20 years.
To thrive, cardamom requires very specific conditions. It must be grown in moderate, humid environments, where temperatures range between 50-70 degrees. And the plant prefers region’s with large amounts of annual rainfall – from 60 to 150 inches per year.
Cardamom also grows in higher altitude regions. The plant thrives between 1950 to 6560 feet.
The leafy, palm-like plant grows to about 5 to 7 feet in height. And produces oval-shaped fruit, which is harvested in August to December, depending on altitude. The pods – or cardamom capsules – are harvested by hand, and then dried and cured using a simplistic method. Drying takes place in a traditional bhatti, a kiln-like furnace, which gives black cardamom its subtle, smoky flavors.
About Our Black Cardamom Pods
Burma Spice sources its black cardamom pods from a family farm outside of Katmandu, Nepal. The area is one of the oldest and most renowned cardamom growing regions, known for producing the prized “Jumbo Jet” pods.
Our family farm – which has been owned by the same family for four generations — is located in Nepal’s Ilam District, one of the most productive regions for cardamom, as well as tea. Our growers utilizes a variety of traditional growing and drying techniques, and each year, they grade their cardamom pods by hand – helping to ensure only the finest pods are made available.