Elettaria cardamomum - chew on that, why dont you! Cardamom, as its more popularly known, is a spice which hails from Asia (specifically, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bhutan, Nepal, and Pakistan); and more recently from Guatemala, which is now the second biggest producer in the world after India. It is also grown in Vietnam and New Guinea.
Cardamom is one of the most expensive spices in the world (behind vanilla and saffron). Its been a favorite spice in Asia since the fourth century BCE, and enjoys a prominent place in the dietary fare of India, Nepal, Thailand, Bangladesh, Sweden, Finland, and the Middle East.
True cardamom seed pods are green or white (when bleached) and originated in India and Malaysia. The larger black cardamom seed pods [also colored a dark brown] came from Nepal and are also cultivated in Australia.
Black cardamom is described as having a smoky-minty flavor - interesting combination, isnt it? Like green cardamom, it is used to flavor some drinks and to add a bit of zing to some foods. Once opened, the pods release small black seeds. Sold and stored as whole pods (instead as a ground spice), green cardamom is the more expensive of the two, but fortunately a little goes a long way.
In some parts of Asia, green cardamom is used as medicine to treat dental and respiratory maladies. It also helps with kidney and gallstones, and may reduce high blood pressure. The Chinese use it to help with some digestive disorders, as well as constipation and dysentery. It is also used in aromatherapy and as an antidepressant. Some people also use it successfully to relieve muscle spasms.
Cardamom is a tremendous source of manganese. It also contains vitamins A and C, iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
Although not commonly carried by your local farmers market or health food store, you can order it online, if the price is right for you and your family.