Botanical name Amomum subulatum ▪ Family name Zingiberaceae Black cardamom is a herbaceous perennial shrub of the ginger family. The pods (fruits) of black cardamom are large (2-3 cm long), hairy, and brown-black, and contain about 30-50 seeds. The seeds are sticky, but once removed from the pod they soon dry out, and it is these, in either whole or ground form, that are most commonly used.
Native range Eastern Himalayas
Major producers India
Harvesting The individual pods are harvested from the flower stalks by hand, from August to November (earlier than for green cardamom), then dried in special drying rooms away from sunlight to preserve the dark brown colour.
Taste and aroma Black cardamom has a tarry smell and a coarse, strong pine flavour. In contrast to green cardamom, which is considered a ‘cooling’ spice, black cardamom is a ‘heating’ spice.
Culinary uses Black cardamom is an important ingredient in combination with cloves, cinnamon, and pepper in garam masala and tandoori-style spice mixtures. Black cardamom is also used occasionally in confectionery and pickles. When pods are used whole in vegetable or meat stews they should be removed before serving, but crushed seeds will dissolve into the sauce. The flavour is intense so use sparingly. Black cardamom is never used as a substitute for green cardamom.
Storage Always try to buy pods that are whole, not broken, and store in an airtight container. Click here for more details about black cardamom.