You've Been Storing Cardamom All Wrong This Whole Time

Have you ever taken a sip of the best chai you've had in your life and wondered where that earthy flavor your taste buds cling to is coming from? You can tell it's not as sharp and zingy as ginger, but also know it's not cinnamon. Fine Cooking explains this complex, spicy edge to your favorite cup of chai could very well be attributed to (drum roll, please) cardamom.

Cardamom comes in three varieties: green (known as the most aromatic), white (bleached green pods, which makes them slightly less flavorful, but allows them to blend better into dishes), and black (a smokier variety, coming from a different cardamom plant than the others). All three types can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. As Fine Cooking notes, cardamom is best stored in its whole pods (versus ground, as it is commonly sold in grocery stores), in a tightly-sealed container, and in a cool and dark place. This helps keep the essential oils inside, allowing for the spice to last a year or more — way longer than the powdered form would. The outlet notes that, though it can be tough to find whole cardamom pods at your favorite supermarket chain, visiting your local specialty markets could prove key.

The pods have been bought and safely stored. Now what?

To use cardamom, The Spruce Eats recommends toasting the pods whole for a couple minutes in a dry skillet, letting them cool, and then crushing the inner seeds with a mortar and pestle or motorized grinder. You can brew ground cardamom seeds with your morning coffee or tea, or incorporate the spice into your favorite desserts. You can use cardamom in savory contexts too, like curries or stews, and even added into some fluffy rice (via Tasting Table).

You might be wondering if cardamom can be used in its pod form as well (since you did make that extra effort to source and store it properly). Something that makes cardamom so great is that chewing on it whole can help with bad breath, according to Healthline. Tasting Table backs this up, sharing that cardamom has a menthol-like essence that makes it work similar to mint chewing gum. The ingredient is also said to offer loads of other health benefits (whole pod or not), including aiding with digestion, nausea, stomach aches, and more. 

Now that you know how to store this bold and layered spice to its maximum potential, the opportunities for using it are endless.