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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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cardamom the dried fruit of a perennial herb, Elettaria cardamomum, is the third most expensive spice, after saffron and vanilla. The plant, indigenous to S. India and Sri Lanka, belongs to the ginger family.

As far back as the 4th century BC the Greeks were buying spices called amomon and kardamomon, and later Greek and Roman writers distinguish varieties of both; but from the descriptions by Dioscorides and Pliny it is not clear which of them, if any, was what we would now call true cardamom.

It is certain, however, that cardamoms of the true kind have been an article of trade with India and Sri Lanka for about a thousand years. India is at present the largest producer; Guatemala comes second, Sri Lanka and Tanzania rank third, while other countries, including Papua New Guinea, produce on a smaller scale.