No longer content to follow the cycles of the moon and the stars, we now identify the changing of seasons with the emergence of the pumpkin spice latte. In thousands of years, they’ll find the recipe carved on a rock in New Hampshire.
Made from a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, clove, and allspice, pumpkin spice (or, pumpkin pie spice) is the most quintessential of fall flavors. And while we love it, there is another warm spice that deserves some attention this season.
Cardamom, a seed from plants in the ginger family, is used in both sweet and savory foods the world over, but especially in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking. There are two primary types of cardamom: green and black. If a jar at the grocery store is labeled just “cardamom,” you can assume it is the green variety. A recipe with black cardamom will usually specify it as such; recipes that read simply “cardamom” are typically calling for green.
In its whole form, green cardamom is a slender green pod containing small black seeds. Though the pods can be added whole to simmer in savory dishes, to be removed or eaten around later, you will most commonly use the seeds from within the green pod. Lightly crush the pod and remove the black seeds. Grind these, as needed, for your recipe. Of course, ground cardamom is easy to find and very convenient. Like with all ground spices, buy the smallest quantity possible to avoid long-kept leftovers.
It is always challenging to describe the flavor of a spice. After all, what does cinnamon taste like, other than… cinnamon? Green cardamom is warm and a little spicy, with some faint hints of citrus. It can be used in all the same places you would use cinnamon—so quick breads, cookies, crisps and crumbles, and yes, even your morning coffee!
A little bit of cardamom goes a long way (good thing, because it can also be expensive!), so if you’re experimenting, start small.