Black cardamom is a member of the genus Amomum and this spice is obtained from two separate plant species whose scientific names are Amomum costatum and Amomum subulatum. Both these species are reputed for their potent astringent aroma. People in various Asian countries widely use black cardamom in their cuisines. Moreover, these plants also possess specific therapeutic properties.
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Black cardamom bears deep brown hued pods measuring anything between 2 cm and 5 cm in length. These pods are swathed with fine bristles. The external surface of these pods is rough and completely wrinkled. Within, each pod encloses nearly 20 to 30 seeds that are sticky. The aroma of black cardamom is fresh as well as potent. The flavour of the pods is distinct - like camphor.
The pods of Amomum costatum and Amomum subulatum are used as a spice, in the same way as one would use the green Indian cardamom pods. However, the flavour of black cardamom and green cardamom pods are different. While green cardamom is widely used in sweet dishes, black cardamom is never used for this purpose. Black cardamom has a smoky flavour as well as aroma, which are derived by drying the pods over open flames employing traditional methods.
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Nepal is the largest producer of black cardamom in the world. India and Bhutan come next to this Himalayan nation.
Aside from its culinary uses, black cardamom also possesses particular remedial purposes and is widely used to treat a number of specific conditions. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), this herb is extensively used for curing malaria and problems related to the stomach.
Often people chew black cardamom in the form of a mouth-freshener. Sometimes, this spice is also dried out and used for making jewellery. In addition, the seeds are also utilized as room fresheners in potpourri.
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It has been established that chewing the seeds of black cardamom helps to overcome appetite loss. Moreover, black cardamom is also a vital remedy for many health conditions such as colic, bronchitis, stress and fatigue. People in India are of the view that ingestion of black cardamom may help to combat obesity. Consuming this spice regularly also assists the digestion of ingested foods.
In herbal remedy, black cardamom is also employed in the form of a stimulant and carminative. This herb helps to alleviate flatulence and indigestion effectively. People in India often use Amomum subulatum to treat various dental problems and also cure gum infections. This herb is also effective for curing congestions in the lungs, throat problems and pulmonary tuberculosis.
In many places, especially Asian countries, people widely use black cardamom for healing eyelid inflammation. This herb is also useful for curing digestive disorders. In addition, this spice is also effective as an antidote for snake and scorpion venom.
Aside from the above discussed health benefits of black cardamom, this spice is also employed for treating halitosis. Moreover, it is also effective for curing respiratory ailments such as asthma and various other forms of respiratory spasms. The seeds of black cardamom possess anti-inflammatory properties and, hence, they are useful in alleviating muscle spasms.
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In the Arabian countries, people have high esteem for black cardamom. In fact, people in these regions consider cardamom coffee to be a mark of hospitality and prestige. It is worth mentioning here that Arabs also consider this herb to possess potent aphrodisiac properties. In addition, people also use black cardamom in aromatherapy in the form of a stimulant.
In ancient Rome and Greece, people fermented the pulverized seeds of this herb to make a potent perfume. Moreover, people in India used black cardamom seeds as an essential element in several Ayurvedic medicines.
Black cardamom has various culinary uses. In Asian countries, this spice is widely used for preparing energetic meat stews as well as a number of other similar dishes. While the flavour of black cardamom seeds is very different from that of green cardamom, sometimes commercial bakers use this spice in large-scale since its cost is less compared to green cardamom.
Often, people mistakenly describe black cardamom to be a poor quality alternate for green cardamom. Particularly people who are not familiar with black cardamom and its uses make such descriptions. This spice is not only very suited for both sweet as well as hot dishes that normally incorporate cardamom, but also dishes that are more regularly prepared in regions located outside the native range of the plant.
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In China, people use the pods of black cardamom for meat dishes braised in jin-jin, especially in the gastronomy of Sichuan, the country's central-western province. People in Vietnam also use these pods often. In Vietnam these pods are known as thảo quả and they are generally used in the form of an ingredient to prepare a broth for phở, a popular noodle soup.
The black cardamom plant is very versatile, as most parts of it are edible. Aside from the pods, even the leaves of black cardamom plants are edible. They are cooked and eaten like any other greens. Even the roots of black cardamom plant are edible and are consumed like potatoes. Even the flowers of this plant are employed in the form of a garnishing agent in various types of salads as well as other recipes. Often, people also steam-cook the pods and add them in pulses. Many Indian sweet dishes as well as punches also include black cardamom frequently.
This spice is also employed in the form of flavoring agent in custard and pickles. People in India also use black cardamom in the form of a pan masala and add it to some types of betel leaf preparations. This spice is also a vital ingredient in Danish pastries and Scandinavian bakery items. Usually, people in Sri Lanka add black cardamom pods to chicken curries and spicy beef curries.
Adding very small quantities of black cardamom to coffee cakes helps to impart a stimulating flavour. Even the flavour of porridges, flans and rice puddings is enhanced when a pinch of this spice is added to them. The seeds of black cardamom are also used for flavoring tea. You can also grind the seeds and use them in different recipes. Alternatively, you can also use them as whole in various cuisines.
You can also consume black cardamom raw or after frying. This spice can also be mixed with many other spices and included in your cooking. People across the globe use black cardamom in a variety of recipes, for instance, Finnish sweet bread called pullas. It is also used in Indian masala tea and the Norwegian bread called julekake. This spice also forms a vital ingredient in various types of recipes such as chowders, casseroles, marinades and soups. Black cardamom is also used in various other dishes and some notable ones include ginger cakes, fig chutney, rice pudding and payasam, a sweet dish prepared by people in South India.
It is important to store the seeds as well as the pods of black cardamom only in sealed containers. If you store them dry, it will help them to remain fresh for about a year.
Generally, black cardamom is cultivated in regions having tropical climatic conditions, forest plantations and wild zones. Ideally, these plants can be grown in tropical rain forests that are trimmed to some extent. This plant grows best in places having some shade.
Harvesting of black cardamom plants is undertaken during the period between October and December. Usually, they are harvested before they become completely mature. Harvesting the plants prior to their maturity helps to prevent the capsules from splitting owing to dehydration.