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Cardamom is an evergreen, perennial ginger-like plant. The plant has thick rhizomes and upright stems with fruit-bearing pointed leaves. The plant grows about 2 to 2.5 metres high and has low-growing fan-like branches. The cardamom grows in pods on the stems at the bottom of the plant. During growth, white flowers with a pink to violet stripe form.
Pods are dried after harvesting and turn matt green in colour. They are 1.5 to 2 cm long. The cardamom pods have a ribbed outside and the pod houses seeds of about 3 mm in size in 3 chambers. The seeds are ground and used as ground cardamom, the pods are sometimes used whole in the kitchen.
The cardamom plants grow mainly in higher and shady areas in the vicinity of a tropical forest where relatively much rain falls. These conditions are mainly found in South-east Asia and Central America. Verstegen's cardamom comes from Guatemala.
Cardamom is used in many dishes to add a delicate flavour, for example, in roasted minced meat and cooking sausages. It is also a common spice in many oriental and African dishes. Cardamom has a very specific flavour. If you use too much of it, it gives a dominant and perfumed flavour. The flavour of cardamom is aromatic, warm and perfumed. This goes well with sweet dishes, but can also be used in a stew.