All about cardamom

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All about cardamom




All about cardamom


© PDPics/Pixabay
All about cardamom

Its small seeds with a fresh, lemony, peppery and slightly camphoric aroma have long been popular in our small dishes.

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Native of India

Just like the pepper trees, the cardamom trees would have appeared on the west coast of India, in the region of Malabar. Rhizomatous herbaceous plant of the Zingiberaceae family, like the ginger, it grows wild at altitude in hot and humid climates. Its dried fruits have been used for millennia in ayurvedic medicine to treat digestive disorders, asthma and bronchitis. Its seeds perfume iconic Indian recipes: curryrice lassi (drink made from fermented milk)… No wonder that cardamom is nicknamed in the country “the queen of spices”.

Darling in babylon

Cultivated in the gardens of Babylon in the 8th century BC, the spice spread in Mesopotamia (current territories of Iraq and Syria), but also in neighboring countries. It is said that Semiramis, the legendary queen founder of the city, appreciated her aphrodisiac virtues and served cardamom wine to her lovers. Apicius, gastronome of ancient Rome, would have been inspired by it, using spices in all sauces.

Praised by Greek doctors

It was the Arab merchants who exported cardamom to ancient Rome and Greece. Its medicinal properties quickly make it successful. In the fifth century BC, the physician Hippocrates was already praising it. The philosopher Theophrastus will also mention it in his History of plants. At the beginning of our era, the doctor Dioscorides classifies it in carminative drugs: they act on the decrease in gas production of the digestive system, thus reducing stomach ache.

Adopted by the Vikings

Some say the Vikings spotted the spice in the bazaars of Constantinople and brought it back to Scandinavia as early as the 10th century. Others argue that the influence of the Moors on the European elite is at the origin of this discovery. Still, cardamom has managed to carve out a place of choice in the gastronomy of the countries of the North: it aromatizes buns and shortbread and goes into the composition of aquavit, brandy locale.

Grown on a large scale in Guatemala

Even if India remains a major producer of cardamom, its strong domestic demand does not allow it to export in quantity. Since the early 1980s, Guatemala has become the world’s leading producer and exporter, since it consumes little. It is a German coffee planter, Oscar Majus Klöffer, who would have introduced it to Guatemala after the First World War. It is now cultivated in abundance for export to the Middle East – the Arab countries having adopted the spice in their coffee – but also to Western countries, where its consumption has risen sharply in recent years.

Mixed in France

From the Middle Age, cardamom is found in France in spicy wines, such as hypocras, associated with long pepper, cinnamon or mace, obtained from the envelope surrounding the Nutmeg.

The third most expensive spice in the world

In recent years, demand has grown strongly, with the fashion for cardamom-flavored drinks, such as le chaï latte Indian served in Starbucks stores. In the form of essential oil, the spice is also highly coveted by the cosmetics and perfume industry. It is, for example, present in 1 Million by Paco Rabanne or 1881 Acqua Forte by Cerruti. The climatic hazards suffered by the two main producers, India and Guatemala, have accentuated its scarcity and prices have come close to € 60 per kilo, making it the third most expensive spice in the world (behind saffron and vanilla). However, due to the global economic crisis, the price has fallen back to around € 30 since last March.

Article published in the issue Femme Actuelle Jeux Voyages n ° 42 August-September 2019

Read also :

Cardamom: what are the benefits of this spice and how to use it?

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