“Do you have any cardamom? Not ground but the whole pods,” my friend asks as we’re walking our dogs. I run through a mental picture of my spice cabinet, and land on the little bottle of green cardamom I bought a while back at Penzeys Spice Company.
“Yes, I do,” I say, “but they’re green, not black.” She looks at me with a blank stare. My friend is not a prolific cook or baker, and she is constantly amazed at my tools, gadgets, and well-stocked pantry. “What’s the difference, she says?”
And I couldn’t answer her question, so I went hunting for the answer. Found it in the Field Guide to Herbs and Spices by Aliza Green. (Disclosure: I’ve met Aliza, and she’s quite well known in the professional culinary circle as the field guide queen. She’s also written guides on meat, seafood, and produce.)
Turns out that both green and black cardamom are used extensively in Indian cooking (think chai tea flavor as an example). Cardamom is also used in African, Middle Eastern and to a lesser degree, Chinese and Scandinavian cooking.
The green is more delicate in aroma and flavor than the black pods and black cardamom has a unique, smoky aroma and flavor as well. Green cardamom is also about three times as expensive as black cardamom, which would explain why I have green instead of black in my pantry. I tend to buy expensive things when it comes to the kitchen, thinking that it’s better. Sometimes I’m right, other times not so much.
About an hour after our dog walk, I’m rummaging around in my pantry looking for the green cardamom pods when the phone rings. It’s my friend and she tells me that she just returned from the grocery store and found black cardamom pods…on sale…half price, even. Instead of $14, she spent $7. If you knew how frugal my friend was, you’d laugh. She would NEVER spend that much money on a jar of spice. But she is determined to make these “Swedish Toasts” (Skorpa) that she describes as similar to biscotti, but thinner.
Now that she has her own cardamom, I’m not sure I’ll get a sample of her Swedish treat, but I’m hoping that just the effort of looking for it, and reassuring her that using the black pods instead of the green pods won’t cause any kitchen disasters, will be enough to encourage her to share. It is the sharing season, after all.