Whole Black Cardamom (Amomum sublatum) is a member of the ginger family, known for its smoky flavor and aroma. A native plant of India and Malaysia, Black Cardamom produces pods that are larger than the more common green cardamom pod. It is harvested in October and dried over open flames, imparting the smoky quality that is its main signature, but which is balanced by resinous, slightly menthol or minty aromas.
The fruits of the cardamom plant have been traded in India for at least 1,000 years, known as the queen of spices. Medicinal use has also been recorded as far back as 2nd century A.D. The precious spice was essential for India in the beginning of the spice trade and continues to be a staple of the culture. However, today Nepal outpaces India in production of Black Cardamom, and the pods are also used in Pakistani, Chinese and Vietnamese cuisines.
Black Cardamom often brewed into tea, incorporated into medicinal tinctures for treating stomach upset and indigestion, and, most commonly, as a cooking spice. Black Cardamom is often seen as a less-desired variety than its green cousin, but actually has a different application that is better suited for savory dishes, while green cardamom is better for sweet recipes. It is a major component of many garam masala spice blends, and is ideally suited for long-simmered or braised dishes in which the spice's flavor can develop. The pods are most often added to recipes whole and removed after cooking, as they can be difficult to grind.
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