Spice Up Your Life
There are all kinds of ways that we can spice up our life. Some of it comes from tree bark, others come from various roots, beans, and other plant matter. Some of them even require a level of processing to make it edible. So, we are going to talk about a few herbs and spices that can upscale your nutritional and cooking needs. Let’s look at the interesting spice that defies all sorts of expectations cardamom.
Cardamom is a spice that is hard to categorize. It somehow manages to be savory, sweet, smoky, nutty, and minty all at the same time. It can be used for both savory and sweet dishes. And, can be a spice for a meat rub or a hot tea. This type of versatility is not that common in a herb or spice. That might be the reason why it is the third most expensive spice in the world.
It is in high demand in the world of cuisine and has a presence from Venezuela to France. So, what do we know about it? What makes it so sought after?
Much like turmeric, cardamom is a very old spice. While it was first mentioned in writing 5,000 years ago, there are pods that date back well before the time of Ancient Babylon.
The ancient spice was first mentioned in what is now the Middle East in an Egyptian papyrus dating to 1550 BCE. Eventually, India and Egypt took started to utilize the cardamom plants and seeds as a breath freshener and medicinal plant. The spice arrived in Greece around 50 CE, where it was essential to cuisine, perfume, incense, and medicine. Then, it finally made its way to the rest of Europe around 1214 CE, which was around the time when the Silk Road was growing strong as a trading route.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Cardamom production has bounced around throughout history. While it has its roots in ancient Babylon, it has certainly spread thanks to warfare and trade. After the Assyrians and Babylonians crossed paths with the Mediterranean into the Early Bronze Age, it made its way to the Middle East. It kept being cultivated in the Middle East and both Ancient Greece and Rome had a consistent supply of the spice from there.
However, when Portugal took over the spice trade, production moved over to Portuguese territory with the intent of having full ownership of this commercial crop. It started becoming a cash crop in parts of India and other surrounding islands that count as Portuguese territory. The islands and territories included Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, and Vietnam. There were still producers from places in Europe and Saudi Arabia, but that is what makes up most of the Cardamom trade today.
It is also important to note that there are two types of Cardamom: black cardamom and green cardamom. The black variety is something commonly found and utilized in India and Asia. Green Cardamom is normally found and utilized in more northern parts of the world.
Medicinal and Health Benefits
The interesting thing to note about Cardamon is that it is technically related to the ginger family. I bring this up because they share some of the same beneficial properties as ginger. Ginger is well known as something that can settle an irritated stomach, and Cardamon has the same reputation. It is also:
- It is used for oral care and a breath freshener since it has a minty undertone
- Cardamom can provide an invigorating odor that enhances your body’s ability to use oxygen during exercise. It can also possibly relax your airway.
- It has many antioxidants which are good for your bloodstream.
- Cardamom extract may decrease elevated cholesterol levels. They may also prevent liver enlargement and liver weight, which reduces the risk of fatty liver disease.
- Cardamom extract may prevent anxious behaviors. This may be because low blood levels of antioxidants have been linked to the development of anxiety and other mood disorders.
So, there is really a lot of benefits that can be found in these seeds. Especially if you are having issues with your breath and digestion. However, knowing these effects requires a little grain of salt. I wouldn’t use it as a replacement for traditional medicine altogether just like any other herb or spice. However, it is certainly an interesting spice that can probably elevate your cooking. With autumn coming up, it might be a good idea to add a little bit to your pumpkin dishes with some cinnamon for a punch.