General Information

Cardamom is a member of member of the ginger family and has a thick fleshy root, a rhizome. It is a bushy plant, about 3 meters tall with straight stems, symmetrical dark green pointed leaves, and lightly colored flowers with white and blue stripes and yellow borders throughout the year. Fruits grow in pods, about 12 per pod.

Varieties

Elettaria spp. Native to India and Malasia
Amomum spp. Native to Asia & Australia

History and Folklore

It is believed that the West got its first taste of cardamom when Alexander the Great brought it back from India. It was used widely in Europe to treat digestive problems.

In Asia and Africa, cardamom has been used to flavor food for centuries and has also been used as an aphrodisiac. It is a very important part of Indian and Arabic cuisine.

Cardamom is an important ingredient in coffee in many cultures. For Arabic coffee, seeds are ground and added to coffee grounds before brewing, or pods are steeped in the coffee itself. In Bedouin traditioni, cardamom pods are placed in the spout of the coffee pot so just the right amount of cardamom flavor is added as the coffee is being poured. In Ethiopia, coffee beans are roasted together with cardamom seeds and other spices immediately before the coffee is prepared. All of these are parts of important hospitality traditions within their cultures.

Propagation

Sow seeds in autumn or propagate by division in spring or summer. Prefers rich, moist soil in part shade. In the north, this plant should be grown in a pot and brought in when temperatures drop below 65 degrees.

Cardamom is grown commercially in India, Guatemala, Sri Lanka, Cambodia & Veitnam

Harvesting & Storage

Cardamom pods should be picked when they are plump, but still immature and laid in the sun to dry.

The fruits should be stored whole and dry. The seeds can be removed and ground immediately before use. They lose flavor quickly when outside the pod and even more quickly when ground.

When shopping for cardamom pods, only buy green ones. White pods have been bleached and the brown ones will not have the flavor you’re looking for.

Magical Attributes

To encourage a would-be lover, chew some cardamom seeds before talking to him or her. This is also useful in any situation calling for eloquence, when you must charm your audience. Cardamom seeds can also be added to lust drawing sachets. Cardamom is a stimulating herb that relaxes the body and clarifies the mind and should be used in any situation where these are needed.

Household Use

The larvae of the Endoclita hosei use this plant for food and so it can be used in the butterfly garden in areas of this species’ range.

Cardamom seeds can be chewed after a meal to freshen the breath. It has a eucalyptus like flavor.

Cardamom is fragrant and often used in perfumery. Seeds can be placed in sachets and stored with linens to keep them smelling nice. And since Cardamom is an aphrodisiac, their scent might be particularly welcome on your sheets. (If you just want to sleep, use lavender instead). You can also impart their fragrance into your laundry by making a sachet for your dryer (old pantyhose work wonderfully for this).

Healing Attributes

Cardamom has expectorant, stimulating, tonic, warm, aphrodisiac, antibacterial, antimycotic, antiviral, carminative, antispasmodic and expectorant effects.

Amomum spp is used most widely in Asian traditional medicine, especially in India.

A. subulatum, commonly called Elaichi is used to treat infections of the teeth & gums, throat troubles, coughs, congestion, tuberculosis, inflammation of eyelids and stomach complaints. A. villosum is used in Chinese medicine for stomach complaints, constipation, dysentery called “Tsaoko”

People who have digestive problems, particularly with gluten, may find it helpful to have a cup of cardamom tea after a meal. Or Chai tea, which contains cardamom. It is also excellent for chest congestion.

Culinary Use

Elettaria cardamomu, and Amomun kravanb are both used for food

Cardamom is used in Turkish, Arab, Indian and African cuisine and some Scandinavian and German cookies, pastries and, of course, sausages. Its addition to a dish immediately gives it an Eastern flair. It is used in Chai tea, Turkish coffee and Belgian ale beers. Ground cardamom seeds are used in baking. You can find white cardamom, that is, seeds that have been bleached, if you do not want the black specks of ground unbleached cardamom seeds in your food.

Cardamom pods and seeds (ground or not) are used to flavor seafood, chicken, rice dishes, and stews. It is an ingredient in curry powder and Garam Masala.

You can place whole cardamom pods in stews or rice dishes at the beginning of cooking and remove them at the end, or remove the seeds from the pods and grind them immediately before sprinkling onto your dishes toward the end of cooking.

Notes

Drink cardamom tea after every meal to aid digestion and prevent gas. Milk boiled with cardamom seeds is excellent with a little honey.

Cardamom should not be used by pregnant women or people with gallstones.

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Foods and Flavors Assocaited with the Signs:

Aries- Chili peppers, pomegranate, black pepper, cinnamon, and cloves.

Taurus- Apples, honey, grapes, vanilla, chocolate, and artichokes.

Gemini- Nuts, lemon, fennel, licorice, lavender, and black tea. 

Cancer- Chamomile, eggs, cheese, lychee, meat, milk, and cabbage.

Leo- Oranges, grapefruit, sunflower seeds, spinach, and peaches.

Virgo- Figs, wheat, rice, herbs, hops, corn, oats, carrots, parsnips, and celery.

Libra- Strawberry, cherry, mint, pears, avocado, beans, and peas.

Scorpio- Coffee, plum, prickly pear fruit, onion, garlic, and pickle.

Sagittarius- Ginger, Tomato, wasabi, lemon grass, mango, leeks, and olives.

Capricorn- Potato, meat, cucumber, pine nuts, green tea, beet, turnip, caviar, and barley.

Aquarius- Tofu, coconut, lime, kiwi, star fruit, papaya, and whipped cream. 

Pisces- Pineapple, banana, watercress, endive, sugarcane, seaweed, and watermelon.

Flavor the Month: Watermelon

Nothing says “summer” quite like a big, juicy slice of watermelon. Even if you prefer it charred on the grill or blended into an icy agua fresca, watermelon is one of the best ways to beat the late-summer heat.

So what gives watermelon its refreshingly delicate flavor?

Turns out the answer is pretty complicated. Over the last few decades, scientists have identified dozens of flavor and aroma molecules that contribute to watermelon’s unique taste.

And here’s an interesting twist: a watermelon’s flavor has a lot to do with its color. Chow down on a yellow ‘Early Moonbeam,’ a pale ‘Cream of Saskatchewan,’ or a deep red ‘Crimson Sweet’ and you’ll likely notice different flavor profiles for each melon. Read more… 

Photo credit: David MacTavish/Hutchinson Farm

Watch on www.itsokaytobesmart.com

Mmmmmm… BACON SCIENCE

Bacon is perhaps nature’s most potent distillation of deliciousness. To those of us who fall in the category of “bacon lover”, there are few more innately pleasurable smells than sizzling bacon. 

The heat-induced chemical reactions catalyzed by the hot pan combine with compounds introduced by the process of smoking and curing bacon to launch a cornucopia of volatile flavor compounds into the air, and in turn your nose, stimulating salivary production and drawing you out of bed aloft on the wafting wonderfulness like a classic cartoon character.

So what ARE those delicious chemicals? The American Chemical Society’s Reactions channel has teamed up with CompoundChem to produce this look at the yummy chemistry of bacon.

Everything that’s delicious, we owe to chemistry.

My favorite bacon compound? When researching my next video (which also has a food-related theme, but you’ll have to wait until Monday to find out), I discovered guaiacol:

It’s a humble little molecule with a mouthful for a name, but it’s one of the most delicious chemicals on Earth. Here’s why it’s special…

Wood contains lots of lignin, a polymer that helps strengthen plant cell walls. When that lignin burns, like when bacon is smoked over applewood or coffee beans are roasted and toasted, some of its ring-like aromatic structures are converted into guaiacol (as well as hundreds of other compounds(, which is the main flavor compound behind the smoky taste in all sorts of foods… including bacon

Flavor of the Month: Cinnamon

Sweet and spicy and one of the oldest spices known to man, cinnamon is a favorite topping or secret ingredient in both sweet and savory recipes. This warm spice is obtained from the dried inner bark of several species of trees within the Cinnamomum genus. True cinnamon however, sometimes known as Ceylon cinnamon, comes from C. verum (also, C. zeylanicum, the antiquated botanical name for the species), indigenous to Sri Lanka. Analysis of the fragrant essential oil from cinnamon bark reveals the main compound responsible for the sharp taste and scent of cinnamon comes from cinnamaldehyde (also known as cinnamic aldehyde). Read more…

Photo Credit: Hans Braxmeier

3

Magic: the Gathering - Recent Planes

THEROS
Theros is ruled by an awe-inspiring pantheon of gods. Mortals tremble before them, feel the sting of their petty whims, and live in terror of their wrath.

RAVNICA
A worldwide cityscape of grand halls, decrepit slums, and ancient ruins. Looming over it all presides the vast—and vastly powerful—City of Ravnica.

FIORA
Fiora is a world of political intrigue, where government factions vie for power and hope to control Paliano, the High City. Despite its scenic vistas, Fiora is one of the most dangerous planes a Planeswalker can visit.

Read all about ‘em at http://magic.wizards.com/en/story/planes

Flavor of the Month: Cardamom

Cardamom is the third most expensive spice by weight, behind only saffron and vanilla.  But with a captivatingly complex flavor profile crammed into such a small package, there’s little mystery behind its steep price. While popular in foods and drinks, cardamom is equally admired in traditional medicine. Perhaps most interesting is its airway relaxant potential in the treatment of asthma. Read more…

Photo Credit: Robin (FotoosVanRobin/Flicker)

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