Black cardamom is a unique and interesting spice with a long history of use as a culinary ingredient and traditional healing herb. Quite different from its cousin, green cardamom, black cardamom has a distinct pungency and smokey flavor that makes it truly stand out. Popular in south Asian dishes, black cardamom pods are delicious in savory cuisines such as braised proteins and broths.
Amomum subulatum is a member of the ginger, or Zingiberaceae family, and a relative of green cardamom. An herbaceous perennial, black cardamom thrives in tropical, dense forests and is cultivated throughout Nepal, India, Bhutan, and southern China. Rhizomatous, black cardamom is a clustering plant that has red stems reaching upwards of 5 feet when mature. The plant has thin, sword-shaped, evergreen, glossy leaves with prominent mid ribs. Its yellow to white flowers bloom close to the ground and ripen into a thick, large, rough fruit pod known as the black cardamom pod. Black cardamom is also referred to as Indian cardamom, greater cardamom, and Nepal cardamom.
The strong, smokey, camphor-like flavor of black cardamom is due to the seed pod’s unique drying method over an open flame. Although it is sometimes used as a less expensive substitute for green cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) its flavors and appearance are very different. Black cardamom has a long history of use as a spice for its bold taste and slight minty aroma. Unlike green cardamom, black cardamom is rarely used in sweet dishes. The spice is often employed as a culinary ingredient in India and regional cuisines around Pakistan.
In addition to its long history as a culinary spice, black cardamom has also been utilized for its healthful qualities. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), black cardamom pods, called sha ren, are employed for their aromatic properties. Considered energetically warming and pungent, these interesting fruits are employed as an ally to help to move stagnant energies. Black cardamom is often used in TCM in a similar manner as green cardamom or in conjunction with green cardamom in herbal formulations. However, black cardamom is specifically called upon to ‘penetrate’ the lower body and for its affinity to the spleen, stomach, and kidney meridians.
Most traditional preparations of black cardamom are in herbal wellness formulations or as a kitchen spice. Cardamom pods are often simmered whole but can easily be freshly hulled or ground into a powder for even more intense flavor. Black cardamom is traditionally combined with other robust flavors such as dried chiles and black pepper, and acids like lemon or lime juice. Black cardamom pods can be simmered in lentil dishes, rice dishes, dry rubs – including garam masala, broths, and curries. Or the adventurous person may want to try substituting for green cardamom in chai tea for a hint of smokiness.
Precautions No known precautions. We recommend that you consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner before using herbal products, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, or on any medications.
This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. For educational purposes only.
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