Spiced Up Monday: Cardamom

Hello blogworld! Welcome to the 2nd Spiced Up Monday. Today features one of my secret weapons: cardamom.
You usually find cardamom in its ground form in the grocery store, but what is it ground from? Seeds, of course! They are the seed of a tropical fruit in the ginger family, eletaria cardamomum (say that 10 times fast!), which makes perfect sense from a taste perspective – it definitely has that spicy, sharp flavor in common with ginger. It originates in India, where both the green and black seeds are used; the black is actually from a different but very similar species, and is a little less expensive.
In India, it was used for medicinal purposes and the Greco-Roman era wisely used it as a digestive aid (and you can, too!). Interestingly enough, it is mentioned several times in the ancient story Arabian Nights as being used in Arab culture as an aphrodesiac and to prepare love potions. I can’t attest to that being true, but I sure do have lovey-dovey feelings for a bowl of oats when I throw in some cardamom!
In India, it is a staple spice in countless dishes, both savory and sweet. In the Middle East, they traditionally grind it with their coffee beans, which sounds like a fascinating idea to me! It’s also quite popular in Scandinavia, thanks to its discovery by the Vikings in Constantinople, and is used often in pastries. ANd in ancient Egypt, they chewed the pods to clean their teeth. Know the term ‘Renaissance man’? I think cardamom classifies as a ‘Renaissance spice’!
I first discovered its wonderfulness when attempting to make a bowl of chai-flavored oats, as it is a prominent ingredient in traditional Indian chai tea. Once, I just threw about 1/8-1/4 tsp. of it in my cinnamon oats, and WHOA! It made the whole bowl much more flavorful and sweeter. It was a breakfast miracle. And it’s only right to share my love for this spice with you! It also makes some mean oatmeal cookies, too.
It does have a very intense flavor, and you only need the teeniest bit to make the difference. I suggest a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio of cinnamon to cardamom, and perhaps a bit of nutmeg and/or coriander. I ADORE it in cream of wheat. Its comforting flavor will give you that rainy-day-curl-up-with-a-book feeling you know you love. And it’s super fun to experiment with – both in sweet and savory recipes.

Want to learn more? Here are my info sources:
http://www.theepicentre.com/Spices/cardamom.html
http://www.culinarycafe.com/spices_herbs/cardamom.html
http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzeys/p-penzeyscardamom.html
http://www.thefoodpaper.com/features/health/cardamom.html

Happy Spicing!
~Namaste~
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