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Question Kurma, can you please tell me the difference between green cardamom
and black cardamon? I know green cardamon is used in curry spice mixes, but can you use black cardamom in the same applications? Would a garam masala be ruined if you used black cardamom? Thanks so much for your help.

Jacquie Atkininson, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

AnswerDear Jacquie,
Thanks for your letter regarding cardamom

The short answer is that strictly speaking, the brown/black wrinkled large pods are not interchangeable with the smaller ones, although ultimately, since one man's food is another man's poison, and since there are no hard and fast rules in the kitchen, you could make a garam masala with the black cardamom, although I wouldn't. It would taste a bit crude. Here is more to distinguish the three culinary varieties of cardamom that are commonly available.

Happy cooking!
Kurma

BROWN CHINESE/INDIAN CARDAMOM PODS

Other Common Names: Bastard Cardamom, Black Cardamom, Elaichi, Winged Cardamom.

Botanical Name: Cardamomum amomum

Description & Use: Brown cardamom pods are dark brown in colour and are oval pods about 2.5cm long. The aroma is camphor-like and smokey, quite different to the better known green cardamom. Brown cardamom gives a delicious smokey taste to marinades for tandoori-style cooking. This is not interchangeable with green cardamom in recipes.

 

GREEN CARDAMOM PODS

Other Common Names: Cardamom Seed, Cardamom Pods, Green Cardamom.

Botanical Name: Eletaria cardamomum

Description & Use: A straw-green to bright-green coloured, fibrous pod, the fruit of a ginger-like plant, enclosing pungent black seeds. Commonly referred to as green cardamom because the pods are bright green in colour and not to be confused with brown or large cardamom (Cardamomum amomum) mentioned above. They smell like a mixture of camphor, eucalyptus, orange peel and lemon. Each pod contains about 8 - 12 seeds. It is better to buy the whole pod rather than the seeds, as the flavour is more intense and is maintained longer. Bruise the pods lightly with the back of a cleaver before using.

Cardamom is native to the Western Ghats of India and Sri Lanka. Harvested from wild plants and not cultivated until 1800, it was traded heavily by the Greeks in the 4th century B.C.

Traditional also in Danish pastry making, cardamom pods are picked before fully ripe (ripe pods tend to split) and kiln dried. Whole pods are put into rice dishes, and ground seeds for the major part of garam masala. It is also used in Indian and Scandinavian desserts and sweetmeats, in spiced chai tea, and sucked as a mouth freshener in India after a meal.

The leaves of the cardamom plant can be used in soups, rice, stocks and other dishes where are cardamom like flavour is required. The leaves are removed at the end of cooking.

Also, the greener the cardamom pods, the better the quality.


WHITE CARDAMOM

Other Common Names: Thai Cardamom, Siam Cardamom.

Botanical Name: Amomum krervanh

Description & Use: A variety of cardamom that is milder than green cardamom, and although considered inferior to green cardamom by many cooks, it does have a delicate flavour profile that goes well in Thai cuisine.

Some white cardamom pods (now rarely available) are not the Thai variety but are the green ones that have been bleached with peroxide or sulphur dioxide, and are not recommended. Variations in quality are generally due to post harvest drying/handling.

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