I have a recipe for cardamom rice that I have been making for a while. But it wasn't until I found a recipe for a great bread that has cardamom in it that I discovered that the green seeds I was using were not the actual cardamom seeds. The first time I made the bread the recipe called for breaking the pod and removing the seeds. I expected to find a few narrow seeds life fennel or bulkier like sunflower seeds. Instead the seeds that I found were many and ancient looking. The experience of opening the pod was like walking into a store front and finding a medieval cathedral inside, and that is just the visual. When I separated the seeds their aroma spread through out the kitchen.
Cardamom comes from southern India and Sri Lanka. It is grown in monsoon forests and until the 19th century it was not cultivated. It's history is long, the first written mention of it was in the 2nd century BCE where it was mention in an Ayurvedic medical text. Like coffee, tea and other spices cardamom was traded for centuries along the silk road. It is highly valued, only out priced by saffron and vanilla. It's cultivation came during England's colonization of India, part of the immense plantations for coffee and tea of the era.
There is a lot more information about Cardamom here: http://www.plantcultures.org.uk/plants/cardamom_landing.html
Yesterday I made both the bread and the rice. The house still smells of cardamom. I imagine that it is a scent that has been filling kitchens and tents for thousands of years.
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