Scent Sense: Cardamom

Cardamom has been heralded as the spice of peace, functioning as a symbol of both hospitality and alliance. As such, at Persian wedding ceremonies, the groom would offer his future bride some cardamom pods, wrapped in silk cloth.

Cardamom is the third most expensive spice next to saffron and vanilla. Originating in India, today it also grows in Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Indo China, Tanzania, El Salvador, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Owing to its unique flavour, cardamom is used for cooking and features in several sweet Indian puddings and meat dishes. You need only to have had a spicy chai tea or cardamom coffee to be able to recognise and appreciate its distinctive taste and aroma. Egyptians originally used cardamom in perfumes and incense; appreciating its intensely sweet, resinous-aromatic, minty and slightly spicy scent. The spice has been popular, not only in Egypt but, throughout the Eastern world. Green cardamom pods are often chewed on to kill mouth odours, naturally. Moreover, cardamom has traditionally been used in the East to treat skin conditions and aid digestion after overindulgence. The spice is also purported to have calming, as well as mood enhancing effects. Today, cardamom is still used by some pharmaceutical companies to sweeten bitter medications. “It is said that a poor man in Saudi Arabia would rather forgo his rice than give up his cardamom,” writes Frederic Rosengarten Jr. in “The Book of Spices” (Pyramid Books). Hyperbole, perhaps but the saying indicates the high regard in which much of the world holds this exquisitely fragrant spice.