Elaichi or cardamom is one of the most common Indian spices and it features in a number of our dishes, both sweet and savoury. We add it to kheer or payasam and also use it in biryanis and pulao. Cardamom is also used to flavour our beloved masala chai and its presence in Indian desserts is almost universal. Both whole cardamom and ground cardamom are widely used in Indian cuisine and with good reason. They lend an aroma and a flavour to the dish that is unmatched and cannot be recreated by any other spice or ingredient. Cardamom also finds use in a number of home remedies to treat a number of infections from cold and cough to acidity, blood pressure and blood sugar and even bad breath. Although it's the green cardamom or chhoti elaichi that is most often used in sweets and savouries, the black cardamom or moti elaichi is equally beneficial and useful.
Although we all know what the green cardamom or chhoti elaichi looks and tastes like, not many of us may be aware of the taste, flavour and appearance of the moti elaichi. Black cardamom is also known as Bengal cardamom or greater cardamom and is used as a spice in the same manner that the green cardamom is used, but it adds a very different flavour and smell to dishes. However, like its cousin, the black cardamom also lends an intense flavour, albeit smoky in nature, as compared to the sweet flavour of the green cardamom.
While the green cardamom comes from the species Elettaria cardamomum, the black or longer cardamom belongs to the species Amomum subulatum. Both the varieties are cultivated in India, but their processing methods are very different. In the case of green cardamom, the pods are harvested before the plant reaches full maturity. The pods of the black cardamom are harvested much later and are also dried over large fire pits.
In the case of green cardamom, both the pod and the seeds are used for flavouring. When it comes to black cardamom, only the seeds are used and the pods are discarded. The green cardamom has a very strong and intense aroma and flavour, while the black cardamom has a smoky and vaguely camphor-like flavour. The taste of black cardamom has a coolness that is sometimes likened to that of mint, but both the forms of cardamom are used for the purpose of adding flavour to foods and drinks.
Although you only need a seed or two of green cardamom to impart flavour to your food or tea, it is one of the most expensive spices by weight, known to the world. Needless to say, the green cardamom pods or whole green cardamom is more expensive than cardamom powder as the grinding process lowers its quality. As compared to the green cardamom, the black cardamom is cheaper as the pods have limited use.
Black cardamom is used in home remedies in Indian and Chinese ancient medicine. The latter even uses black cardamom in treatments for constipation and dysentery. It is also believed to reduce symptoms of asthma. Meanwhile, green cardamom is also very useful for treating sleep troubles. Both forms of cardamom boost digestion and fight gastric troubles.
So now you know! It's advisable to store cardamom is air-tight containers in clean, dry and cool places in your kitchen. Keep these containers away from strong-smelling foods and other substances as they might spoil the delicate aroma of the spice.