Photo: North Carolina Sweetpotato Commission, Inc.

“Of all of the spices, I find cardamom one of the most intriguing and impressive, with its distinctive floral aroma and unique clean flavor,” says Al Goetze, chief spice buyer for McCormick & Company, Inc. “Cardamom has a rich history, which originated in the tropical rainforests of Southern India. References to cardamom are found in Hindu scriptures dating back thousands of years. New plantings spread the cultivation to Sri Lanka and Guatemala; however, India remains a major producer—and the largest consumer—of cardamom.”

Each 6′ to 9′ plant has multiple stems, Goetze notes, that “yield the ribbed pods containing the cardamom seeds. Each pod has four to six tiny dark seeds, which are the source of cardamom’s wonderful perfume-like aroma and taste. To ensure minimal loss of color and splitting, immature parrot-green pods are picked just prior to them turning yellow and opening. The pods are then carefully dried in hot air chambers for 16 hours. The cuisines of India and the Middle East favor the whole, immature green pods, which represent about half the crop. Fully ripened yellow pods contain the mature seeds, which have the highest volatile oil content and flavor. They are highly prized for use here in the States.”

Goetze and his family enjoy the following recipe this time of year.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Apples with Pecan Streusel Topping

Makes 8 servings

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ chunks
2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cardamom, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Place sweet potatoes and apples in large saucepan. Add cold water to cover 1″ over sweet potatoes. Bring to boil on high heat.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook 15 to 20 minutes or until tender.
  4. Drain well and return to saucepan. Add 2 tablespoons softened butter, vanilla, 1 teaspoon of the cardamom and salt. Mash until well blended and smooth.
  5. Spoon into lightly greased 1½-quart casserole dish.
  6. Mix brown sugar, 1/4 cup butter and remaining 1 teaspoon cardamom in small bowl until coarse crumbs form. Stir in pecans. Sprinkle over sweet potato mixture.
  7. Bake 30 minutes or until lightly browned and heated through.

Read More About Cardamom

A Passage to India
Masala Chai
White Hot Chocolate
Cardamom Flan