How to grow cardamom?


What is Cardamom?

Cardamom is one of the world’s very ancient spices. It is native to the East originating in the forests of the western ghats in southern India, where it grows wild. Today it also grows in Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Indo China and Tanzania. The ancient Egyptians chewed cardamom seeds as a tooth cleaner; the Greeks and Romans used it as a perfume. Vikings came upon cardamom about one thousand years ago, in Constantinople, and introduced it into Scandinavia, where it remains popular to this day.

Cardamom is an expensive spice, second only to saffron. It is often adulterated and there are many inferior substitutes from cardamom-related plants, such as Siam cardamom, Nepal cardamom, winged Java cardamom, and bastard cardamom. However, it is only Elettaria cardamomum which is the true cardamom. Indian cardamom is known in two main varieties: Malabar cardamom and Mysore cardamom. The Mysore variety contains higher levels of cineol and limonene and hence is more aromatic Cardamom comes from the seeds of a ginger-like plant. The small, brown-black sticky seeds are contained in a pod in three double rows with about six seeds in each row. The pods are between 5-20 mm (1/4”-3/4”) long, the larger variety known as ‘black’, being brown and the smaller being green. White-bleached pods are also available. The pods are roughly triangular in cross section and oval or oblate. Their dried surface is rough and furrowed, the large ‘blacks’ having deep wrinkles. The texture of the pod is that of tough paper. Pods are available whole or split and the seeds are sold loose or ground. It is best to buy the whole pods as ground cardamom quickly loses flavour.
Bouquet: Pungent, warm and aromatic.
Flavour: Warm and eucalyptine with camphorous and lemony undertones. Black cardamom is blunter, the eucalyptus and camphor suggestions very pronounced.
Hotness Scale: 2
Where to Buy Cardamom on the Internet For online purchases click here to shop for cardamom.

Cooking with Cardamom

The pods can be used whole or split when cooked in Indian substantial meals — such as pulses. Otherwise, the seeds can be bruised and fried before adding main ingredients to the pan, or pounded with other spices as required. Keep the pods whole until use. The pod itself is neutral in flavour and not generally used, imparting an unpleasant bitter flavour when left in dishes. Cardamom is used mainly in the Near and Far East. Its commonest Western manifestation is in Dutch ‘windmill’ biscuits and Scandinavian-style cakes and pastries, and in akvavit. It features in curries, is essential in pilaus (rice dishes) and gives character to pulse dishes. Cardamom is often included in Indian sweet dishes and drinks. At least partially because of its high price, it is seen as a ‘festive’ spice. Other uses are; in pickles, especially pickled herring; in punches and mulled wines; occasionally with meat, poultry and shellfish. It flavours custards, and some Russian liqueurs. Cardamom is also chewed habitually (like nuts) where freely available, as in the East Indies, and in the Indian masticory, betel pan. It is a flavouring for Arab and Turkish coffee which is served with an elaborate ritual.

Health Benefits of Cardamom

A stimulant and carminative, cardamom is not used in Western medicine for it own properties, but forms a flavoring and basis for medicinal preparations for indigestion and flatulence using other substances, entering into a synergetic relationship with them. The Arabs attributed aphrodisiac qualities to it (it features regularly in the Arabian Nights) and the ancient Indians regarded it as a cure for obesity. It has been used as a digestive since ancient times. A medicinal (perhaps aphrodisiac) cordial can be made by macerating seeds in hot water..

Plant Description and Cultivation

A perennial bush of the ginger family, with sheathed stems reaching 2-5m (6-16 feet) in height. It has a large tuberous rhizome and long, dark green leaves 30-60 cm (1-2 ft) long, 5-15 cm (2-6”) wide. It grows in the tropics, wild and in plantations. Trailing leafy stalks grow from the plant base at ground level. These bear the seed pods. The flowers are green with a white purple-veined tip. Cardamoms are traditionally grown in partially cleared tropical rain forests, leaving some shade. Similarly, in plantation cultivation, forest undergrowth is cleared and trees thinned to give just enough shade and the rhizome or seeds planted at 3m (10 ft) intervals. The plants are gathered in October-December, before they ripen, to avoid the capsules splitting during drying. They are dried in the sun or bleached with sulphur fumes.

Other names

Cardamon, Lesser Cardamom
French: cardamome
German: Kardamom
Italian: cardamomo, cardamone
Spanish: cardamomo
Burmese: phalazee
Chinese: ts’ao-k’ou
Indian: chhoti elachi, e(e)lachie, ela(i)chi, illaichi
Indonesian: kapulaga
Malay: buah pelaga
Sinhalese: enasal
Tamil: elam
Thai: grawahn, kravan

Scientific Name

Elettaria cardamomum syn: Amomum cardamomum
Fam: Zingiberaceae

Recipes using Cardamom

Try Aromatic Basmati Rice, Yakhni Spice Stock and Sheek Kebabs

Cardamom is included in our Indian Spice Collection

Prices of cardamom, Queen of Spices, soar as wild weather wipes Indian production

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Every year, tens of millions of Hindus flock to the Venkateswara Temple in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh to pay tribute to site’s patron deity and pick up some of its famous sweets, the legendary “Tirupati laddu”.

A price tag is seen on a sample of cardamom on display for sale in a market area in the old quarters of Delhi, India, July 9, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis

The traditional delicacy is baked with sugar, flour, ghee, nuts and raisins and studded with cardamom, which has surged in price this year as India’s erratic weather ravages production of the pod, known as “the Queen of Spices”.

That spike has created new cost and supply pressures for buyers of the spice, like the temple, which offers a limited number of complimentary laddus to visitors and charges for extras.

“We are already incurring a loss making laddus, and this makes it worse,” a senior temple official told Reuters.

The temple typically buys 120 tonnes a year of high quality small cardamom pods, the most sought after kind, to meet demand. A year ago, it paid 1,600 rupees ($23.31) per kg for the spice, the official said. This month, it paid 4,400 rupees per kg.

The production problems stem from erratic weather in the south Indian district of Idukki, which accounts for at least a sixth of the global production and about three-quarters of India’s small cardamom output.

Last year, massive rains killed over 50 people and destroyed the district’s farmlands. This year, a weak monsoon season has wiped small cardamom production, threatening the livelihoods of thousands of producers.

That has hit both supply and quality, but more crucially, sent the spot prices of small cardamom, already among the world’s priciest spices, to record highs on Mumbai’s Multi Commodity Exchange this month.

That spike is good news for traders but depleted stocks mean farmers are unable to capitalize on the rally, while the surge in costs has also hurt downstream demand.

Temples and state governments are among India’s largest buyers of cardamom, accounting for up to 35% of the market, said Jojo George, Managing Director of KCPMC.

“Somebody who was buying three tonnes or so earlier is now buying only one ton,” George said.

For a graphic on Cardamom prices in India, see:


Cardamom’s complex combination of flavors, including elements of mint, citrus and herbs, make it a popular ingredient in a wide range of dishes, both sweet and savory.

Koushik S., popularly known as the “Mad Chef”, said the spice is essential to Indian cooking and supply issues affect his work.

“Next year, availability will be a problem and we might have to import from Guatemala, but then the quality is inferior,” said Koushik, who is a well-known Indian TV chef and is also a consultant to restaurant chains.

Guatemala is the largest cardamom grower but supply to India from the Central American country is mixed with lower quality cardamom, according to research by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency.

Over the past three months, N Seetharam Prasad, the chef at the four-star GRT hotel in Chennai, has complained five times about the low quality of his small cardamom supplies.

He uses the spice to make everything from biryani, a fragrant rice dish that enjoys a cult status in the country, to tea and sweets.

“I will never compromise on the quality of ingredients and will look to buy elsewhere if I don’t get good cardamom,” Prasad told Reuters.

Idukki, a small land-locked mountainous region located near the southern tip of India, has historically been ideal for cardamom, which demands heavy rains to thrive.

P.C. Matthew, a farmer who lives in India’s cardamom capital of Vandanmedu in Idukki, expects production to fall 50% from a normal year due to lower rainfall, and for the harvest to be delayed to October from early August.

For a graphic on Indian small cardamom losing flavor, see:

While overall rainfall at local and national levels has not varied significantly over time, analysis shows the incidence of short spells of intense rain and lengthy periods of little or no rain has increased.

For a graphic on India extreme weather events, see:

India, in its annual economic survey last year, attributed this to climate change, and said revenue in areas entirely dependent on rains could fall by close to a sixth.

The increasingly erratic weather patterns lift risks for the $400 billion farm economy and its hundreds of millions of farmers, only a small fraction of whom have crop insurance.

Since the start of the century, Idukki’s cardamom regions have had seven lengthy dry spells, defined as periods of 100 days or more of no rain, said Muthusamy Murugan, the officer in charge of the state-run Cardamom Research Station in the district.

A shopkeeper packs cardamom for a customer in a market area in the old quarters of Delhi, India, July 9, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis

That compares with 15 such spells for the entire 20th century. He expects the region’s cardamom production to fall 40%.

“Prices will continue to rise in the long-term and we have reached this point because of climate change,” said Joychan Kannamunda, secretary of the Cardamom Growers Association.

(This story corrects typographical error in paragraph 3)

Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan; Editing by Martin Howell and Sam Holmes

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Cardamom (or cardamon or cardamum) is the classic spice used in Scandinavian baking despite its origins in India and Sri Lanka. Closer to home, it is used to flavor coffee in the Middle East and tea in India. The plants are grown from rhizomes but it is the seeds that are used as spice.

There are two kinds of cardamom. Black cardamom, Amomum subulatum , is grown in Nepal. It has a smokier flavor than the more commonly used green cardamom. Green (or true) cardamom, Elettaria cardamomum, is grown in India and Malaysia and is related to ginger. It has the characteristic flavor combination of ginger, cloves, vanilla and citron.

Cardamom has been in use since ancient times. The Greeks and Romans used both black and green cardamom in their food and perfumes. It is recorded in Sanskrit texts as a medicinal herb. It still used in Ayurvedic medicine.

Cardamom plants are native to tropical rainforests. They are only hardy in zones 10 through 13. The plants require a lot of moisture and humidity. They do not tolerate any dryness. At maturity, they grow to ten feet in height in rich, well-drained soil. They are an understory plant, growing in partial shade or filtered sunlight. Like their cousin ginger, they have fleshy rhizomes and lance-shaped leaves.

The plants must be three years old before they start to produce the seeds we use as spice. Bloomtime is spring with the white flowers appearing at the base of the leaves. The flowers develop seed pods that are harvested in the fall.

It is possible to grow cardamom from seed. Use the freshest seeds you can find. They are only viable for about two years. Sow them in rich soil and cover them with a scant ⅛-inch of soil. Keep the soil warm, at 75⁰F. Germination should occur within 14 days. Seedlings should be planted at least 7 feet apart.

If you live north of the tropics, you can grow cardamom plants in deep containers. Keep them indoors during cold winter. Because they require high humidity, you should mist your plants regularly while they are indoors. Our houses are very dry. You can move your containers outdoors in the late spring when night time temperatures are consistently above 40⁰F. Move them indoors in the fall when night time temperatures fall below 40⁰F.

Whether planted in the ground or in a container, you can begin harvesting the pods in the fall when the flowers have dried out and the pods turn green. Dry the pods on screens for 6 or 7 days, turning them frequently. Once the pods are dry, the seeds are ready to be harvested. Because the seeds lose their freshness and flavor very quickly, they should be stored in their dried pods until they are used. If you need ground cardamom, delay grinding the seeds until you are ready to use them.

Store your seeds in their dried pods in tightly sealed containers in a cool, dry, dark place as you would your other herbs.

Table of contents

Product information
Container transport
Cargo securing

Risk factors and loss prevention:
Temperature Odor
Humidity/Moisture Contamination
Ventilation Mechanical influences
Biotic activity Toxicity / Hazards to health
Gases Shrinkage/Shortage
Self-heating / Spontaneous combustion Insect infestation / Diseases

Product information
Product name

German Kardamom, Elettaria
English Cardamom
French Cardamome
Spanish Cardamomo
Scientific Fructus cardamomi of Elettaria cardamomum
CN/HS number * 0908 30 00

(* EU Combined Nomenclature/Harmonized System)
Product description
Cardamom is one of the most significant, valuable spices in the world. It consists of the small, highly aromatic pods or seed capsules of a perennial plant of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae) native to India. The fruit capsules, which are collected just before maturity, are three-sided, 8 – 25 mm long and 2 – 4 mm wide and have three compartments containing a total of 15 – 20 seeds (2 – 4 mm in diameter).
The term spice is used to refer to plant parts which serve to improve the odor and flavor of foods. They contain essential oils and other ingredients which have a strong seasoning action.
Spices are processed, cleaned, graded and carefully packaged for overseas dispatch in the countries where they are cultivated. They are dried to preserve them for transport and storage. In consumer countries, they are delivered to spice mills, where they are cleaned and graded again, ready for sale in unground or ground form.

Spices are classified by the plant parts used:
Oil content: 3.0 – 8.0% essential oils , in particular cardamom oil, which has a high cineole content.
The fatty oil content is approx. 2% .
Quality / Duration of storage
Green fruit capsules are harvested before they are fully mature and dried in curing installations, so ensuring that they retain their green color („greens“). These are the highest grade cardamom pods, the best quality coming from Guatemala.
Fruit capsules that have matured to a yellow color are harvested at this stage and dried in the sun („yellows“). They have a tendency to burst open readily, entailing a loss of essential oils.
In addition to the whole fruits, cardamom seeds and husks are also commercial products. The 2 – 3 mm seeds range in color from white through brown to black, and are the most valuable form of the spice.
High grade cardamom comes from southern India, Guatemala and Tanzania. Lower grades come from other countries of Asia, such as Sri Lanka, Thailand or northern India.
In general, the weight in grams per liter and the color are decisive in determining quality. The proportion of burst fruit capsules („open pods“) also determines quality, as do color (green or yellow) and drying method (mechanical or sun).
Provided that the recommended storage conditions are complied with, cardamom may be kept for up to 12 months. „Greens“ have the best shelf life, as the intact fruit capsule provides the best protection for the seeds. Unprotected seeds readily lose essential oil.
The fruits must contain at least 4% and the seeds at least 3% essential oil.
Intended use
Cardamom is used as a spice primarily in Christmas baking, sausage mixtures, curry powder (for many Indian dishes and rice) and in the liqueur, flavors and fragrances and pharmaceutical industries.
(Click on the individual Figures to enlarge them.)

Figure 1 Figure 2 Figure 3

Countries of origin
This Table shows only a selection of the most important countries of origin and should not be thought of as exhaustive.

Africa Tanzania
Asia India (Malabar coast), Sri Lanka, Thailand, Papua New Guinea
America Guatemala, Honduras

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Because of the high value of cardamom, it is predominantly packaged in double-layered bags (42 – 50 kg) and is only seldom still transported in boxes.
Ever more frequent use is made of single ply fabric bags lined with polybags, black polybag liners being used for the better, green grades to protect them from light.
Premium grades from Guatemala for example are shipped in 5 kg cartons, 8 of these cartons in turn being packaged in a master carton.
Cardamom husks are sometimes shipped in compressed bales of up to 300 kg or loose in bags.
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General cargo

Means of transport
Ship, truck, railroad
Container transport
Standard containers may be used, subject to compliance with lower limits for water content of goods, packaging and container flooring.
Cargo handling
In damp weather (rain, snow), the cargo must be protected from moisture, since this may lead to mold, spoilage and self-heating.

Hooks must not be used in handling bagged goods as they subject the bags to point loads, so damaging them. Due to their shape, plate or bag hooks apply an area load and are thus more suitable for handling bags.
Stowage factor
Stowage space requirements
Cool, dry, good ventilation
Fiber rope, thin fiber nets, wooden dunnage
Cargo securing
In order to ensure safe transport, the cargo must be stowed and secured in the means of transport in such a manner that it cannot slip or shift during transport. If loss of volume and degradation of quality are to be avoided, the packages must not be damaged by other articles or items of cargo.
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Risk factors and loss prevention
RF Temperature
Cardamom requires particular temperature, humidity/moisture and possibly ventilation conditions (SC VI) (storage climate conditions).
Favorable travel temperature range: 5 – 25°C
Cardamom should be transported in areas which exhibit the lowest temperatures during the voyage and are dry. In any event, storage beneath the weather deck or, in the case of shipping in containers, in the uppermost layer on deck, must be avoided as the deck or container is strongly heated by the intense tropical sun and, at temperatures of > 25°C, essential oils may be lost.
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RF Humidity/Moisture
Cardamom requires particular temperature, humidity/moisture and possibly ventilation conditions (SC VI) (storage climate conditions).
Cardamom must be protected from all forms of moisture (rain, seawater, condensation water).
Spices are hygroscopic goods (hygroscopicity), which interact with the moisture in the air. The risk of mold growth is naturally at its greatest in warm, damp air. The cargo may become musty, and the risk of self-heating increases with an elevated air moisture content.
Cardamom should be protected from relative humidities > 75% and direct exposure to moisture, as the outer capsules may become discolored (blackening). The risk of mold growth is particularly marked at such levels of humidity.
Mold-damaged goods inevitably lose value. Moisture-damaged goods should therefore be separated from undamaged goods as soon as possible .
In order to prevent condensation on the ship’s side or container walls from affecting the cargo, care should be taken to leave an adequate gap between the cargo stack and the ship’s side.
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RF Ventilation
Cardamom requires particular temperature, humidity/moisture and possibly ventilation conditions (SC VI) (storage climate conditions).
If the product is at „shipping dryness“, it does not have to be ventilated during transport. However, if the water content does not meet these guidelines, the following ventilation measures should be implemented to eliminate the potential for dampness:
Recommended ventilation conditions: air exchange rate: 6 changes/hour (airing)
In order to avoid formation of mold, the stowage space should be cool, dry and, most particularly, easy to ventilate.
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RF Biotic activity
Cardamom displays 3rd order biotic activity.

It is among those products in which respiration processes are suspended. Nevertheless, biochemical, microbial and other decomposition processes still proceed in such products and must be taken into consideration.
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RF Gases
No risk.
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RF Self-heating / Spontaneous combustion
An elevated moisture content and excessively high temperatures create a risk of self-heating.
Oil content: 3.0 – 8.0% essential oils , in particular cardamom oil, which has a high cineole content.
The fatty oil content is approx. 2% .
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RF Odor

Active behavior Cardamom has a strong, pleasant, aromatic odor and a delicate, spicy flavor.
When transporting spices, it is important to retain the content of essential oils to the greatest possible extent, since these substances, together with other constituents, such as fatty oils, tannins and bitter principles, determine the odor and flavor and thus quality of the spices.
The essential oils are readily volatilized and the seasoning action of the spices is consequently reduced. Volatilization of the essential oils is primarily determined by temperature. The higher is the ambient temperature, the more the essential oils are volatilized, as may be recognized by the intense odor in the hold.
Due to the readily volatilized essential oils, spices should be stowed separately from each other and away from foodstuffs which readily absorb foreign odors (e.g. coffee, tea, tapioca, sago).
Passive behavior Cardamom is sensitive to goods with an unpleasant and/or pungent odor and should therefore not be stowed together with odor-emitting products (e.g. chemicals or cheese).

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RF Contamination

Active behavior Cardamom does not cause contamination.
Passive behavior Cardamom is sensitive to contamination by dust, dirt, fats and oils.

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RF Mechanical influences
Cardamom is sensitive to mechanical stresses If the outer fruit husk of the pods is broken as a result of rough handling, aroma is lost.
With bagged cargo, point loads applied for example by hooks may result in damage (tears) to the bags and thus in loss of volume. Plate or bag hooks, which, due to their shape, distribute the load and reduce the risk of damage, should thus be used.
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RF Toxicity / Hazards to health
No risk.
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RF Shrinkage/Shortage
Weight loss may occur as a consequence of the natural drying of goods which were harvested too early and due to the action of heat.
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RF Insect infestation / Diseases
Consignments of cardamom may be infested by flour beetles, merchant grain beetles, almond moths and tobacco beetles.
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Cardamom Pods

Also known as green cardamon, cardamom is also frequently misspelled as cardomom. Belonging to the same family as turmeric and ginger, cardamom is indigenous to India and Sri Lanka but is now also harvested in Cambodia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Mexico and Vietnam. Our Green Cardamom is grown in Guatemala. Most of the cardamom consumed is the US is sourced from Guatemala because the small amount grown in India is typically all used there, leaving little for export.
Green cardamom pods are preferred by both chefs and serious home cooks. Top quality cardamom is harvested while still immature and sun-dried to preserve its bright green color. Green cardamom pods are often difficult to find and therefore a bit expensive. Whole pods have a superior ability to retain the much sought after flavor and aroma.
Smaller pods are generally more flavorful and thus the most prized. Whole cardamom pods are preferred for maintaining the best flavor. The inner seeds are a dark brown to almost black in color and are typically sticky. The rule of thumb is the stickier the seed the fresher the product. Cardamom seeds are also called cardamom decorticated or cardamom hulled which means the seeds have been removed from the pods.
Cardamom is believed to have been first used in by the Ancient Greeks, then the Romans and into the middle ages. It is believed that Alexander the Great exported the first cardamom pods from India into Europe. Today Cardamom is very popular in African, Arab, Asian, Indian and Scandinavian cuisines.
Cardamom’s flavor is complex, slightly sweet, floral, and spicy with citrus undertones. It is best to grind cardamom fresh for superior aroma and flavor as once ground both are quickly lost. Cardamom intensifies both savory and sweet flavors and is a key ingredient in many spice blends – most notably, Apple Pie Spice, Baharat, Berbere,curry powders, Garam Masala and Ras El Hanout.
In India whole pods are fried to extract the flavor and added to vegetable and meat curries. In Europe the seed is used to flavor breads and pastries. In the Arab world as a show of welcoming hospitality, visitors may be offered a cup of coffee flavored with cardamom and cream. In Scandinavian countries cardamom is found in various types of bread dishes, sweet pastry and is added to recipes the way we use cinnamon.
Cardamom can also be used for savory flavoring in pâtés, purées, rice, sauces, soups, stews and with chicken, meats, seafood and vegetables. If you want to enhance sweet dishes try adding cardamom seeds to your homemade custard, ice cream, rice pudding or sprinkle them over a fresh fruit salad.
Whole Cardamom pods, when slightly crushed, are used to flavor casseroles, curries, rice and stew. Add both the crushed pod and the seeds to the cooking pot as the pod will dissolve while providing a bit of extra flavor to the dish.
If you just want the seeds place the cardamom pod(s) in your mortar and lightly pound the pods with the pestle. The pods will split open and the seeds will spill out.
One ounce of Cardamom Pods is approximately 200 pods. Each Green Cardamom Pod holds 5-12 seeds and it takes about 10 pods to produce one teaspoon of ground cardamom.
Closely related to Green Cardamom is Black Cardamom. Black Cardamom should never be used as a substitute for Green as the flavor of the Black Cardamom is much earthier with sweet and flowery notes. You’ll find Black Cardamom called for in some African recipes and in India it is used to add a bacony flavor to vegetarian dishes.
Be careful when using cardamom for the first time as a little goes a long way and it is very easy to overpower a dish.
We especially like Green Cardamom with apples, oranges, pears, sweet potatoes and use whole pods in coffee.
Works well in combination with chili powder, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, paprika, pepper and saffron.
One of our favorite recipes using cardamom is this Cardamom Spice Cake.
** This product is certified kosher.

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