While black pepper is called the spice king, cardamom takes the title of the spice queen, partly because of the importance it has held in the spice trade, but also because it is the second most expensive spice in weight after saffron. Cardamom is expensive because it grows in remote places.
Our cardamom grows beneath the cosy roof of the Sri Lankan rainforest situated over the village of Pilimathalawa. Cardamom requires full shade, the coolness of heights and lots of moisture. Cardamom pickers fight forest animals like wild monkeys and wild boar that also love cardamom seeds, and battle against leeches, mosquitoes and other insects that target humans. But it is worth the effort and the little aromatic green gems are at great prices.
It is not necessarily the size that determines whether the cardamom is good or not, but rather its green colour, indicating whether the pod has been harvested at the right time and if it is tenderly dried in small ovens in the villages. The cardamom pods contain small seeds that should ideally be dark gray or black. White grains are an indication that the cardamom is too old.
Cardamom, both shell and seeds, can be easily powdered in a mortar or in a coffee grinder for use in Indian curries and desserts.